APAS issues recommendations to help livestock sector following April summit

Create partnerships to lower costs, introduce farm support program for ranchers, and provide compensation for the environmental benefits of having livestock on the land — those are the three main recommendations from the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) 2023 Livestock Summit Report, which was released on Dec. 6.

The report is a follow-up document created from suggestions and comments made during the APAS Livestock Summit, which was held in Saskatoon last April.

APAS president Ian Boxall said members have expressed apprehension about the sector’s future as drought, and increased production costs hit Saskatchewan livestock producers hard.

“We are committed to identifying the next steps to address the recommendations identified from the summit,” Boxall said in a press release. “Success for livestock producers translates to success across the entire province. Collaboration among agricultural groups is key to focusing our efforts and mutual support, leading to collective accomplishments. Ultimately, our shared goal is the success of agricultural producers.”

Saskatchewan is Canada’s second largest cattle-producing province, but has seen a decline in recent years. According to Statistics Canada, there are 90,000 fewer head of cattle in the province than there were in 2021.

Boxall said converting prime livestock production land to cropland will hinder the industry’s long-term success and future viability.

The report identifies high feed prices as one of the main concerns. Beef prices are nearing their 2015 peak, according to the report, but feed costs have increased 75 per cent since that time.

The report also calls for improved Business Risk Management coverage. Livestock Price Insurance (LPI) is the main tool available for producers, but the report says it does not receive the same support as crop insurance, where producers’ premiums are partially covered by the federal and provincial governments.

The federal and provincial government provides a variety of other programs, including AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, and AgriRecovery, but the report says these programs aren’t working for livestock producers.

“There is a generally held view in the industry … that these programs cover less for livestock producers than other commodities,” reads the report. “There is particular focus on the robust coverage offered through Crop Insurance and the lack of equivalent financial backstop at the beginning of the production season available for livestock.”

The report also calls for producers to receive direct compensation “for the environmental good they provide.” Grasslands stores an estimated 10 to 30 per cent of the world’s carbon, according to the report, and APAS says that number can go higher if trees are integrated into grazing lands. “Despite the environmental benefits, grassland management often faces challenges in being recognized and valued,” reads the report. “Producers typically do not receive direct payment for their efforts in managing grasslands…. As a result, there is a disconnect between the public good that comes from grassland management and the economic incentives for producers to invest in these practices.”