REGINA — Saskatchewan's agriculture minister says the province is making up to $70 million available this year to producers affected by drought.
David Marit told reporters on Monday the money is to help livestock producers offset feeding costs so they can maintain their herds.
"We saw quite a decline in 2021. We don't want to see a further decline, but I'm sure that we will see some decline," Marit said about the size of herds. "That's why it was important for us to come to the table this early."
Farms, primarily in southwest Saskatchewan, have been experiencing drought conditions as there has been little rain to help fields and pastures.
Marit said he expects a few thousand will be interested in the program.
He said producers can apply by providing receipts and other appropriate documentation to the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp.
The funds are to provide farmers with up to $80 per head to maintain breeding stock for beef cattle, bison, elk, deer, sheep and goats.
The money was triggered through AgriRecovery, a federal-provincial framework that's used to help producers recover from natural disasters, like drought.
Marit said he's spoken with federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay about Ottawa offering support, describing the conversation as "good."
On Monday, MacAulay announced the ministry is finalizing the AgriRecovery process to determine if any additional support is required.
The ministry said it has designated regions in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia to be eligible for the Livestock Tax Deferral program.
The program allows producers to defer a portion of their income to next tax year, if drought has forced them to sell all or part of their breeding herd.
“My heart goes out to farmers and ranchers who are affected by these extreme weather conditions," MacAulay said in a statement. "Early designation of the Livestock Tax Deferral provision provides assurance so they can make informed decisions to manage their herds."
In Saskatchewan, Marit said assistance is already available, adding the province has offered other measures to help producers.
He said the province and federal government have already agreed to increase benefits through AgriStability, a program that works similarly to crop insurance.
About 50 per cent of producers participate in AgriStability, he said, adding he hopes more consider taking part in the program.
He said he's not sure how the drought will affect Saskatchewan's finances this year, as the province's books were hit hard following the drought in 2021.
"We're all hoping and praying for some more moisture, and that's kind of where it's at," Marit said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2023.
Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press