By Chelan Skulski
The 2013 agriculture budget is leaving farmers with mixed feelings.
The ministry of agriculture received a record $198.3 million in crop insurance funding as well as $6.5 million designated to crop research. However, the ministry will experience an overall decrease in funding of approximately $23 million.
Specific programs seeing cuts include regional services, by $11 million, and business risk management by $39 million.
“Its going to have a serious effect I think, if the disaster relief isn’t there, which I think was cut last year, if all they have is crop insurance, then in terms of business risk management it is going to be really difficult for a lot of producers,” said NDP agriculture critic Cathy Sproule.
Growing Forward 2, an agreement between federal and provincial governments, is seeing provincial cuts before the program launches on April 1, 2013. AgriStabilty is being decreased by $52.5 million and AgriInvest will be cut by $10.2 million.
AgriStability is a program through which governments provide a share of lost income to protect farmers from large declines of farm income. AgriInvest encourages farmers to set money aside for income shortfalls and invest in on farm risk.
“We would have liked to see an increase in the AgriInvest portion, just because it was a program that everybody liked. All we can hope for is that we don’t have a huge wreck and that the value of the commodities stays where it is and everyone can make a little money,” said Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities president David Marit.
With cuts to these programs and business risk management, farmers might be left in deep waters with spring flooding due to record snow fall this winter.
Norm Hall, president of Agricultural Production Association Society, commented on the issue. “Well in areas like my own, we have already had three years of flooding, so we are as prepared as we are going to get. In the west side of the province, they went into the fall a lot drier; hopefully a lot of water will soak into the ground. But on the eastern half of the province we aren’t near as dry and there is very good possibility of severe flooding all depending on when the melt hits.”
Prior to budget day, farmers were already aware of the $6.5 million funding increase into crop research. This funding was provided for research into new technology and addressing genetic diseases.
“It was good to see the government is acknowledging the new genetics coming out of farming practices and having the producer yield jump up. It is a positive step just reflecting the agronomics and genetics of the plants we are using now,” said Kenton Possberg, vice-president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.
Lyle Stewart, minister of agriculture, is excited about research funding. “That is huge. In order to meet the growth plan targets of 50 per cent more production by 2020, research is going to be a valuable piece of that. Research, irrigation, everything we can do to increase production we are going to try to do. The trouble with research is you don’t get instant gratification, you put the money up front and five years down the road you start to see the results trickling out but it is money so well spent,” he said.
The government did allocate $3 million to the Global Institute for Food Security. This program is perhaps seeing more attention since the record-breaking exports of $11 billion in agricultural food products in 2012. According to the Saskatchewan Plan for Growth, the province is aiming for $15 billion in agri-food exports by 2020. Top agricultural exports for Saskatchewan include wheat, canola oil, durum and lentils.