Future uncertain for shelterbelt trees
The announcement of cuts in the federal agriculture department is being met with concern for the future of programs that have been integral to the farm community in Saskatchewan.
The shelterbelt centre in Indian Head, east of Regina, has been producing trees for farmland for over 100 years.
Although renamed in recent years to the Agri-Environment Services Branch of the department, most people in Saskatchewan know it as the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration.
On Wednesday workers were told their jobs, more than 40 positions, were at risk depending on how department cuts would be managed.
Murray Holzapfel has been with the tree farm for 38 years.
"It's just unfortunate that we got caught in a government shakedown," Holzapfel said of the program reductions. "It's kind of like throwing a thimble of water on a forest fire."
The shelterbelt centre is set to close by the end of 2013, although there is a chance the program could continue, if a partnership with an outside source of funding can be found.
Although the production of shelterbelt trees dates back to the early 1900s, the work of the PFRA came to prominence during the dustbowl era of the 1930s.
Agriculture historian Andrew Dunlop said the agency changed the look of the province's rural area.
"Going between Saskatoon and Regina, for example, if you look left and right while you're going -- look at all the trees that are out there," Dunlop said. "Most of them have been planted by someone."
The PFRA also did research on land management.
"I don't think you can say the relevance has passed," Dunlop said of the research done under the program. "The PFRA as a source of new ideas and innovation, I think it would always have a role."