Saskatchewan boosts agriculture budget by 6 per cent

Increased funding for business risk management programs is the main driver of a $23.1 million increase for agriculture in Saskatchewan’s proposed budget.

Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Donna Harpauer tabled the province’s 2021-22 budget on Tuesday, featuring a deficit of $2.6 billion and a plan to return to balanced books in 2026-27.

The budget includes $386.9 million for the Ministry of Agriculture — approximately a six per cent increase from 2020-21.

The province is planning to spend an additional $20.6 million on the suite of business risk management programs delivered under the federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP).

That suite includes crop insurance, for which the province has budgeted $150.1 million, an $11.1 million increase from last year. The province has also added $2 million more for its Wildlife Damage Compensation Program to keep up with higher commodity prices. AgriStability was not mentioned in budget documents, but the agreement reached between federal and provincial governments last month regarding the reference margin limit is expected to result in increased payouts to producers who experience significant margin declines.

$32.9 million has been set aside in the budget for agriculture research, matching last year’s allocation.

The province has also committed an additional $2.5 million for irrigation projections to help advance projects outside of the Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Expansion Project.

“The importance of a secure, reliable and safe food supply chain is essential for our citizens and for our economy,” says Agriculture Minister David Marit, in a statement. “The 2021-22 agriculture budget will once again fully fund business risk management programs, provide a record level of per-acre coverage under the Crop Insurance Program, continue last year’s record investment in agriculture research, and make important investments in irrigation expansion.”

Outside of the agriculture budget, the province also announced plans to establish four new international trade and investment offices, with locations to be announced in the coming months. Funding for these international trade offices is also being doubled to $9.3 million.

Farm groups welcomed the province’s financial plan for 2021-22.

The Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) said it is “pleased the Government of Saskatchewan is investing in agricultural programming and improving rural telecommunications,” noting $85.8 million has been dedicated to SaskTel’s “Fibre to the x” program.

“COVID has really been a shock to the economy, and agriculture is well poised to lead the recovery, and we will,” said APAS president and Regina-area farmer Todd Lewis, in a post-budget statement.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association also said it is supportive of the budget.

“Today’s provincial budget provides the appropriate levels of support for the agriculture industry, especially during a pandemic. No new tax increases and no decrease in the budget ensures ongoing agriculture programs,” noted Wheat Growers chair and Glaslyn, Sask.-area farmer Daryl Fransoo, in a news release.

Saskatchewan’s agriculture and food exports reached a new high of $16.9 billion in 2020 — more than 55 per cent of total provincial exports last year.

“I think if we get enough rainfall this spring, there’s no reason not to expect another record year of exports,” Lewis said. “We’ve shipped record amounts of grain this year in the second-largest crop in history, and if the weather cooperates, we’ll certainly see that continue.”

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