Saskatchewan

Funding up in the air for Sask. farmers dealing with loss of cattle after fire

A grassfire in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan has left cattle producers struggling to rebuild their herd after many animals perished.

1 uninsured farmer faces death of entire herd

A massive wildfire approaching a farm near Burstall, Sask. on Oct. 17, 2017. (Submitted by Kathryn Job)

A grassfire in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan has left cattle producers struggling to rebuild their herd after many animals perished.

A wildfire near Burstall, Tompkins and Leader on Oct. 17 burned tens of thousands of acres of land and killed around 750 cattle, for an estimated loss of about $1 million.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said that unfortunately for farmers in the area, cattle and fences don't qualify for funding through the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program because they could've been insured.

Stewart said he personally sold his cattle last March and admitted his herd was not insured at the time.

"Generally speaking, there is a low percentage of producers that ensure their stock," Stewart said. "People may be reconsidering that because of some things that happened lately."

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association has initiated a fund to support those people who aren't receiving compensation from PDAP. It's put together about $200,000. Stewart said the province may put money into that fund through its contingency fund, set up to help with disasters around the world.

The fire, which spread when over 100 kilometres winds breezed through the province, proved to be a local disaster for some farmers. One whom Stewart spoke to lost 90 head of cattle, nearly the entire herd.

"There are one or two producers in pretty tough spots," Stewart said. "It's a horrible thing, at best, for anyone involved."

NDP Agriculture critic Carla Beck is calling for some sort of disaster relief for affected farmers who are dealing with scorched land, dead or injured cattle and lost feed heading into the winter. She said there are also mental health concerns for producers who have lost cattle.

Beck said she wants to see the province use funds to ensure farmers have feed over winter and pasture land for the spring as well as some compensation for lost livestock.

"This is an event that is really unprecedented," said Beck. "This is a weather event really of disastrous proportions for those people who were swept up in it."

"This is an opportunity for us to stand up to producers."

Stewart said he spoke with leaders in Alberta who have not yet finalized a plan to give farmers who faced losses on their side of the border funding.

With files from Stefani Langenegger

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