Province has nearly $90 million available, says Carla Beck
By Diego Flammini
More needs to be done to assist Saskatchewan’s cattle producers who suffered losses during October’s wildfires, according to Carla Beck, the NDP’s agriculture critic in the provincial legislature.
The fires burned more than 34,000 hectares of farmland near Burstall, Leader and Tompkins. And more than 700 livestock died in the fires or were euthanized afterward.
The provincial government provided $100,000 to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association for disaster relief, but that’s not enough, Beck says.
“What has been provided for producers to this point is simply inadequate,” she said during Wednesday’s question period. “We have producers who are looking to replace their herds (and) who are wondering how they’re going to come up with the dollars to feed their cattle over the winter.”
And at least one Saskatchewan farm organization feels more can be done.
Earlier in the month, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) called on the federal and provincial agriculture ministers to develop a plan like the 2017 Canada-British Columbia Wildfire Recovery Initiative.
That program promised to provide up to $20 million to help farmers who experienced losses during the B.C. wildfires last year.
There’s almost $100 million available that Saskatchewan can use to further support producers.
Saskatchewan projected about $710 million in agriculture spending for 2017, but had budgeted for $800 million.
Part of that $90 million surplus should be available to farmers, Beck says.
“Agriculture expenses are down – almost $90 million less than expected, partly due to a reduction in crop insurance claims,” she said. “Why won’t this government use some of this surplus to provide much-needed disaster relief to these producers?”
The reason the government hasn’t increased its relief efforts, according to Lyle Stewart, Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture, is because most of the items lost in the wildfire are insurable.
“Our programs do not cover losses on insurable assets,” he said in response to Beck’s questioning. “And virtually all of the losses in the wildfires were insurable assets.”
Top photo: Carla Beck