The federal and provincial governments have agreed to increase to the 2021 AgriStability interim benefit payment percentage from 50 per cent to 75 per cent for Saskatchewan producers.
The two governments announced the decision on Wednesday.
“My heart goes out to those farmers and ranchers feeling the impacts of the drought,” Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a release. “We are working closely with provinces to get farm families the support they need as soon as possible. By unlocking more AgriStability funds through interim payments, we can get more cash in hand for farmers who are making tough decisions in a difficult situation and I urge other provinces to request the same if needed.
“We will continue to support farm families to get them through the challenges we face today, and position them for a sustainable future, since we know climate change will continue to pose challenges.”
The interim benefit provides the opportunity for producers who are enrolled in AgriStability to access a portion of their benefit early, to help support losses and cover costs.
With this increase, Saskatchewan producers can apply for an interim benefit to receive 75 per cent of their estimated final 2021 benefit, before completing their program year.
“We are closely monitoring and responding to the challenges facing Saskatchewan producers due to the extreme drought conditions this growing season. That is why we are taking another step today to provide our producers with additional support,” Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said.
“This increase allows producers to access a larger portion of their final AgriStability benefit early. The AgriStability interim benefit can help producers with cash flow needs and provide them with additional flexibility to deal with the dry conditions.”
The interim benefit is calculated based on the estimated margin decline or loss for the year compared to the farming operation’s reference margin. The decline must be at least 30 per cent below the reference margin to access a payment. If a producer receives an interim benefit payment, they must still file all final program year forms and meet program requirements by the assigned deadlines.
Provincial NDP Agriculture Critic Trent Wotherspoon released a statement on Thursday saying the increase falls short of what producers need.
“The measure announced yesterday by the provincial government simply doesn’t cut it,” Wotherspoon said in the release. “Producer, farm and livestock organizations, such as the Saskatchewan Stock Growers and Saskatchewan Cattleman’s Association, have all been calling for emergency measures and support.”
Wotherspoon said that the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) and nearly a dozen producer groups wrote Premier Scott Moe the day of the announcement to call for for immediate action, including an increase to AgriStability compensation rates and extending enrolment. He said that was something that the Opposition and producers has been asking for months.
“In the face of the extraordinary challenges producers and ranchers are facing with this year’s drought, it’s long past time the provincial and federal governments step up with relief and measures that rise to the occasion,” Wotherspoon said.
“Many producers and ranchers are facing extraordinary hardship due to drought. In face of this crisis they deserve support, not a government that sits on the sidelines.”
Understanding the importance of issuing interim benefits in a timely manner, SCIC is prioritizing Interim Benefit applications. SCIC will work with producers to finalize Interim Benefit applications as soon as possible.
AgriStability is one of the business risk management (BRM) programs under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. It protects Canadian producers against large declines in farming income for reasons such as production loss, increased costs and market conditions.
To apply for an interim benefit, producers can contact their local SCIC office, call the AgriStability Call Centre toll-free at 1-886-270-8450, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
APAS welcomes AgriRecovery announcement
On Friday the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) said in a release that it welcomes the announcement that the federal government is investing $100 million into the AgriRecovery program to help Saskatchewan ranchers and farmers faced with extraordinary expenses and loss of breeding herds because of this year’s extreme drought conditions.
“This drought has resulted in unprecedented losses for producers in Saskatchewan,” APAS President Todd Lewis said in the release.
“It’s going to take years for some farms to financially recover from this year, but also to build up their breeding herd that had to be sold because of lack of feed. Any additional money going to help this struggling sector is appreciated.”
On July 30 APAS sent a letter to federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, requesting her government address the situation many Saskatchewan farmers are facing by investing in the AgriRecovery program.
“I just hope the assessments are completed reasonably fast as producers have bills, employees to pay and a mountain of unexpected costs from this year,” Lewis said.
“We look forward to working with both levels of the Government of Canada and Saskatchewan to get this money into the hands of producers and ensure we have a breeding herd in the coming years.”
APAS is also encouraged that the federal government has included the entire province of Saskatchewan in the Livestock Tax Deferral program to ensure producers have options when it comes to protecting their livelihoods,but would still like to see longer-term deferrals and eligibility expanded to include all classes of livestock.
“Farmers and ranchers are facing a lot of tough decisions right now and it’s important they have choices when it comes to the future of their farms,” Lewis said.