Federal response to drought too slow in coming; Hoback

Randy Hoback/ Daily Herald File Photo

Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback says the current reaction from the Federal government to the drought situation in the prairies has been too slow.

Hoback, who is currently hosting a number of community barbecues in the region, sees the response as very slow in coming.

“It seems to be very reactionary. That’s some of the criticism I have on it right now,” Hoback said. “The province has been more aggressive in regards to making decisions (and) quicker to put things in place to help the cattle producers right now.”

One example he gave was the provincial changes to the crop insurance program.

“Writing off those crops down south earlier and faster so they could convert them into the livestock feed—now those are the types of actions which help producers maintain their herds and their breeding stock in dry years,” he explained.

Hoback said the recently announced federal and provincial governments plan where both levels of government agreed to an increase to the 2021 AgriStability interim benefit was a step in the right direction, but don’t necessarily go far enough.

“Those are all good measures for sure, but when you look at it there are probably a few other things to look at like the tax deferral,” Hoback said. “There are some people in positions that are just going to have to shrink their herd in order to get through the winter with the feed that they have, so don’t penalize them when they come back next year and purchase spring stock. Give them that tax deferral to do that, and to have that cash to do that. There is things like that that could be done immediately.”

He explained that droughts are not a new concept by any means and there has been consistent responses from governments like the Conservatives before 2015.

“The deferral is one that’s a no brainer. You just do that automatically so that you take that pressure off of producers, so that they know that if they do have to liquidate some herd, we are not going to get a huge income tax bill coming up on the doorstep at the end of the year.”

Hoback also suggested was improving access to the AgriInvest program so producers enlisted can get funds quicker. One tough proposition, according to Hoback, is balancing those producers who are not in AgriInvest and those who have maximized their ability to insure themselves as long term parts of the program.

He said the recent rainfall in the region over the past week will hopefully allow salvage of some hay crops for fall with a late crop of hay. The rain can also help the pastures so producers can keep cattle in pasture longer.

“But it has to keep raining,” he said.

“The other things that can be done is if we are starting to talk about climate change and seeing more and more cycles where they are drier than what we need to do to make sure we have got the appropriate infrastructure to handle that,” Hoback added.

One example of this he gave was the province’s irrigation project in the south. Hoback said there needs to be similar measures in the northern and central areas of the province.

“That’s where I think we have got to be putting some resources to make sure we can drought-proof our province,” Hoback said,

For grain operations, new concepts in zero tillage and genetics are helping crops grow with minimal moisture. Hoback said he expects that to improve with research in genetics and variants in the next five years.

“Those are some things that I think are paying dividends that were investments made before 2015 when there was a Conservative government in place to get us down that path to get our most efficient use of water from our genetics coming out of the plant,” he added.

What Hoback has been hearing during his barbecues, including one at Paddockwood on Monday, was that crops in the area are average.

“They are actually fairly thankful for an average crop,” he said. “They are looking at above average prices and now is the nervous season. They are so close to getting it to the bin and you don’t want to see that early frost, (and) you don’t want to see that hailstorm. You just want a normal fall with lots of sunshine, then get it off and get it in the bin.”

His barbecues continued in Nipawin on Tuesday and from his observation crops have looked good all year long.

“Again, it is the final push to get them in the bin, I hear they might need a few more weeks before they start harvesting but when we go further south in Melfort and Tisdale and south there grain crops are pretty well set there is no more yield to be had and they are going to take what they get and it’s not good. I feel for those guys for sure,” Hoback said.

Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the government is doing everything it can to help farmers. Bibeau said they’re sensitive the problems caused by the drought, which is why they increased the payment percentage from the 2021 AgriStability interim benefit payment.
“My heart goes out to those farmers and ranchers feeling the impacts of the drought,” Bibeau said at the time. “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.”