Much of province facing drought-like conditions

SARM watching to ensure relief programs meet farmers’ needs

The organization representing the province’s rural municipalities is keeping a close eye on the federal and provincial governments’ responses as dry weather spreads through Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) said in a press release Monday that it would be assessing programs’ response to drought conditions, citing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Monitor and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s most recent crop report.

Both reports detail dry conditions in the south leading to less-than-adequate soil moisture.

According to the Drought Monitor, as of July 31, south-central and southwest Saskatchewan, including Regna, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon are all facing moderate drought, while a small patch of the province surrounding Swift Current is facing severe drought. A significant portion of the province surrounding those areas, stretching as far north as Prince Albert, is facing conditions coded as abnormally dry.

According to the map, drought is also an issue in central Manitoba, southeast Alberta, southwest and northwest B.C.

The Province of Saskatchewan’s topsoil and hay moisture conditions map lists the entirety of the province as having adequate or below moisture levels. Much of the province is short, with the southwest portion of the province very short. Only a small area north of Prince Albert, the area between Meadow Lake and Lloydminster, the area surrounding Nipawin and Tisdale and some spotty areas near Kindersley are listed as adequate.

The Prince Albert area is below its average rainfall for this time of year. According to historical data, the city receives an average of about 240 mm by mid-August. According to the province’s cumulative rainfall, the city has received between 200.1-225 mm so far this year, with surrounding farmland receiving 175-200mm of rain.

According to the province’s weekly crop report, released each Monday, Moisture conditions have “significantly worsened,” and “most crop damage this past week was due to lack of moisture, wind and extreme temperatures.”

High temperatures have caused crops to dry rapidly, and yield and quality may be affected, the report said. In some areas, there have been reports of stubble and combine fires.

Even if it does rain, according to the report, it may be too late.

“The majority of the province did not receive any rainfall last week, although the Nipawin area reported 19 mm of rain, the Spiritwood area 22 mm and the Meadow Lake area 29 mm,” the report said.

“Any further rainfall will come too late for many of the crops still in the field, as they are rapidly drying down.”

In the northeast and northwest crop districts, which include Prince Albert, Melfort, Nipawin and Shellbrook, conditions are not as dire as in the south. Still, heat and lack of moisture have damaged crops, and some yields are being affected.

These conditions are concerning SARM, which wants to ensure existing programs will have farmers’ backs.

It is times like these that agriculture producers benefit from provincial and federal programs that lessen the impacts of Saskatchewan’s unpredictable weather conditions,” said SARM President Ray Orb.

SARM has begun an assessment of available programs in response to these conditions.

“We will continue our conversations with all stakeholders to stay on top of the challenges rural Saskatchewan faces as we understand a poor growing season impacts both crop cultivation and livestock; we need programs that meet the needs of our producers,” Orb said.

SARM will be meeting with the provincial minister to discuss existing programs and is planning to meet with the federal minister in October.

Neither SARM nor the Ministry of Agriculture responded to a request for further comment.

Country Comfort – September