Eligibility requirements for disaster relief program leaves some cattle producers out in the cold

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After a string of storms tore through parts of Saskatchewan early this spring, many cattle producers sustained losses which severely impacted their bottom line. The current eligibility requirements for disaster relief programs has left some producers with no relief at all.

The Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) provides assistance to residents, small businesses, agricultural operations, First Nations, non-profit organizations and communities who sustain losses due to severe weather. However, with any relief program, there are eligibility requirements, some of which the agriculture community says need revision.

One main requirement is the applicant’s annual gross profit must be less than $2 million; additionally, their operation cannot employ more than 20 individuals.

Kelcy Elford, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, says this stipulation is unreasonable and shouldn’t discard applications from operations who gross more than $2 million per annum.

“When it comes to practicality, and when producers need to access those dollars, just because it says a certain number on a page – making them ineligible is unacceptable.” says Elford. “Two million, sounds like a lot of money, but everybody knows in this business, the money needs to roll around and input costs are high and margins are extremely tight. So just because you’re you’re rolling those type of dollars, doesn’t mean that the cash flow is always there and every calf is important.”

Although a number or value has not yet been determined for losses this spring, Elford says he has heard upwards of 400 calves were lost when there was still plenty of snow on the ground and more losses were likely to be discovered after the melt.

Livestock deaths aren’t the only damages sustained from the extreme spring weather – for those calves that did make it, medical issues were much more likely to occur given the conditions including treatments for pneumonia.

Unfortunately, at this time, there is not a lot of recourse to appeal the requirements; however, Elford says it is what is done — and said — now, that will have an impact in the years to come.

“Producers need to come [to the Stock Growers AGM] and have their voices heard and we can we can lobby specifically on what the asks are. There is a process, and this government in in general, especially over the past year, when we go in and have specific asks and solutions, they consider them and usually they take the industry’s recommendation.”

On a grander scale, this is just another blow to an industry that is already feeling squeezed by annual profits, or the lack thereof. Elford says the conversation of “is this worth it” is coming up more and more often and with little help for some in dire situations like many faced this spring, it could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for those severely affected by these events.

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