Beyond drought, into disaster: producer groups call on governments for immediate drought relief


Editor’s note: The Government of Saskatchewan announced changes to crop insurance and some program changes after this story was published. See those changes here

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) and other producer groups are calling on provincial and federal governments to take immediate action and support Prairie livestock producers who are facing drought conditions.

Jeff Yorga, rancher at Wood Mountain, Sask. and second vice president of SSGA, uses a different word than drought to describe the situation: it’s a disaster. In the southwest corner of the province where Yorga ranches, the area has received only two inches of moisture since June of last year.

“Producers are facing a situation where there’s a) no grass; b) if there is grass there’s no water for the cattle to drink; and c) the crop started growing and so there is no chance to salvage feed,” says Yorga, who recently joined Shaun Haney on RealAg Radio.

SSGA is looking to the government to work with them to find solutions. Yorga says that a few options usually crop up, one of them being a tax deferral, but as he points out it doesn’t help producers who have to sell into a down market and buy in a very high market, which SSGA anticipates will be the case next year. A tax deferral that lasts about five years would give producers the opportunity to average back into the market, says Yorga.

SSGA is also calling for time-sensitive enhancements to Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation programs and the Farm & Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP). Changes to the program should include an 80/20 cost share, increasing caps for drought-impacted regions, and expanding the program to cover above-ground and buried reservoirs for existing pipelines.

“All of the moves made today, have the option to set us up for success in the future, if we’re able to do them properly,” says Yorga. “That’s where infrastructure moves like Farm & Ranch Water Infrastructure help set us up for the future, for when this potentially could happen again.”

The feed situation is a crunch, and Yorga says that producers are absolutely selling off parts of their herd early, starting with yearlings.

Yorga anticipates at least a third of the cow-calf herd disappearing between his ranch and the Alberta border this fall. SSGA ups that number to a 40 per cent reduction in herd numbers in the province by winter.

Listen to the full conversation below for Yorga’s thoughts on the AgriStability program changes, and why the program doesn’t work for ranchers: 

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