Heat-strained crops have Sask. government, Opposition calling for federal help

Heat and a lack of rain are just some of the factors stressing Saskatchewan crops. Both the government and Opposition are calling for help.

Only about half of pulse, cereal crops at normal development

Saskatchewan crops are suffering from extensive heat and lack of mositure. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Saskatchewan's weekly crop report paints a grim picture of how an extended heat wave and lack of rain have stunted growth in the province. Now, both the government and Opposition are calling on Ottawa for help.

"Crops remain extremely stressed from the lack of moisture and continue to advance quickly due to the heat and dry conditions throughout the growing season," the provincial Ministry of Agriculture said Thursday.

The ministry said clouds and smoke from forest fires gave crops "a slight reprieve," but that the rain will only maintain yields, not increase them.

The crop report showed the impact of the heat and lack of precipitation. Only about half of many crops are at their normal level of development for for this time of year:

  • 51 per cent of fall cereals.
  • 52 per cent of spring cereals.
  • 50 per cent of oilseeds.
  • 49 per cent of pulse crops.

Last week, Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit wrote a letter to the federal government asking for an AgriRecovery assessment.

"This combination of heat waves, no rainfall, minimal spring runoff and low early spring moisture is having a devastating impact on producers in the province," Marit wrote.

He said the province was willing to work with Ottawa "to help deal with the extraordinary costs brought about by this disaster."

Southern Alberta farmer Richard Owen stands in the same spot of his barley field in July 2020 and July 2021. A similar story is playing out in Saskatchewan. (Kim Owen)

Marit announced the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation would be doubling the low-yield appraisal threshold values for customers who salvage their cereal or pulse crops as feed.

The province also requested that Ottawa designate all of Saskatchewan as eligible for the Livestock Tax Deferral program, to help producers who may need to liquidate some of their herd due to feed or water shortages.

Marit said the province would also be interested in joining a working group to discuss some solutions.

Feds announce support for those facing drought

On Thursday afternoon, Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau was in rural Manitoba to tour drought-affected areas and later announced support programs for some affected producers.

Bibeau announced an early designation for the Livestock Tax Deferral provision, as Marit and other provinces had requested.

The federal government also moved on immediate bi-lateral agreements with provinces for the AgriInsurance programs, which will make drought-damaged crops available for feed.

In addition, she said AgriRecovery assessments were underway in provinces affected by drought, including Saskatchewan.

"I am here to listen and help those farm families hard hit by this extreme weather. Our government is taking action to help them through the challenges we face today and ensure they are supported for a sustainable future," Bibeau said.

Opposition tours drought-affected area, sends letter to premier, prime minister

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili and other NDP MLAs toured some areas affected by drought in southern Saskatchewan on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Meili stood outside the government's cabinet office in Saskatoon asking both the federal and provincial government to do more for struggling producers.

"We heard a cry for help, a cry for help from the federal government and the provincial government to get to work right now on a substantial relief program. To understand the urgency when it comes to feed, water, the financial means to make it through this crisis."

Opposition MLA Trent Wotherspoon (right) and Opposition Leader Ryan Meili (left) sent a letter to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for immediate help for farmers and ranchers affected by drought. (Dayne Patterson/CBC)

Meili and caucus colleague Trent Wotherspoon sent a letter on behalf of the Opposition to Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for the development of a "meaningful aid program."

"Failure to act now risks farm and ranch losses, deep financial and emotional impacts for families, and major negative repercussions for the Saskatchewan economy," the letter said.

Meili said long-term planning also needs to take place. He said climate change will be "driving more drought events and more extreme weather events."

Province writes letter back to Opposition

Marit sent a letter to the Opposition on Thursday on behalf of the government.

In it, Marit outlined the initiatives the government has taken to help farmers and ranchers to this point, including the request that Ottawa enact an AgriRecovery program, changes to crop insurance, and changes to the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program. 

On July 14, Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit (right) announced crop insurance changes and the requests the province has made to Ottawa for help. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

"I appreciate your recent interest in our agriculture sector and rural Saskatchewan," Marit wrote, adding the Saskatchewan Party caucus "represent virtually all" producers in rural Saskatchewan.

Marit said, "it is not clear exactly what the NDP are calling for" adding his government announced some program changes eight days ago and "continue to explore more options."

with files from Yasmine Ghania


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