Enduring multiple droughts — if AgriStability doesn't work now, when will it?

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Tara Mulhern Davidson has been ranching for over 15 years, and has had to manage through several severe droughts in the last five. The perpetual dryness is weighing on planning for the long-term, she says, but there’s also the every day challenges of working with a living commodity.

Davidson’s Lonesome Dove Ranch is based at Ponteix, Sask., and depends on a thriving grassland to support her purebred Gelbvieh and commercial cow-calf operation.

Grasslands are drought tolerant but a severe drought in 2021 and now another very dry year in 2023 has left Davidson to navigate incredibly high feed and bedding costs with little disaster support.

Saskatchewan has triggered AgriRecovery and the federal government has released its drought-impacted tax deferral map for this year, but Davidson says there are some discrepancies in how ranchers can manage risk vs. crop producers that should also be addressed.

Crop producers have a much easier time deferring grain sale proceeds, Davidson says, any given year — not just in disaster years. What’s more, AgriStability seems to favour grain-based farms. In all the years Davidson has been ranching, she’s yet to trigger an AgriStability pay out, begging the question, if a stability program doesn’t payout in a severe drought, is it really a viable program?

The long-term impact of these differences, she says, could mean Canada loses more grasslands, as crop production becomes a more bankable option for farmers. But losing more ranchers has a negative impact on crop producers, too, as the livestock sector is an important user of screenings, feed crops, and crop byproducts.

Listen below or download the podcast for later to hear from Tara Mulhern Davidson and her thoughts on business risk management and navigating back-to-back droughts: 

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