Agriculture budget receives cuts, but new program shows promise

By Taryn Riemer

 

Photo by Taryn Riemer. Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart after the 2014 - 2015 budget was announced at the Legislative Building in Regina. Agriculture lost $35.2 million in funding, but saw the new Western Livestock Price Insurance Program added to the budget.

 

Saskatchewan’s 2014 – 2015 Provincial budget saw an overall $35.2 million decrease in agriculture from last year, leaving some people upset and others indifferent.

 

Significant funding was lost from the Business Risk Management with a $40.2 million cut. Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said these aren’t actually cuts. This decrease is due to lower commodities prices.

 

Agriculture critic Cathy Sproule said the government needs to be careful when cutting in this area.

 

“Looking at what happened last year, with a significant bumper crop, certainly that makes sense within a budgeting cycle, but that could change tomorrow depending on weather and everything else,” said Sproule.

 

This year’s budget also allocated $79 million for areas such as research and market development. This is up from last year by $7.5 million.

 

A new program in the budget this year is the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program.

 

It will protect livestock producers from drops in prices over time. The government will contribute $1.1 million to the Crop Insurance Program Delivery line for that program. This is the only funding the government provides to the program because it’s completely producer funded for the premiums.

 

 “I’m pretty proud of that one, Saskatchewan being the second largest livestock producer in Canada behind Alberta, Alberta having the program and Saskatchewan producers not having it over the last four years have put our producers at a disadvantage,” said Stewart.

 

Along with Stewart, Norm Hall, president of Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan, is also glad to see the program.

 

“Its something that APAS has been calling for for years and by bringing this in it gives livestock producers a cushion that they can rely on for the prices. They can lock in profits and be able to have the comfort of knowing where their bottom is going to be,” said Hall.

 

Overall Hall believes the budget is a “B-minus, nothing real great, but not a failure for sure.” He would have liked to see the $35 million saved from crop insurance premiums being high to have stayed in the agriculture budget, but there were increases to the non-Business Risk Management portion in areas like research.

 

Sproule said there are a few things in the budget that she disagrees with. The budget is also missing something she would have liked to see.

 

“More assistance for community pastures in terms of the patrons association and some of their goals, to ensure that that program remains a viable program and there’s really nothing there at all,” said Sproule.

 

Overall Stewart is happy with the budget that was announced today.

 

“We got what we needed to support the industry. We’re very happy with it. It was a tight budget. I think it’s maybe a testament to the fact that we asked for reasonable things, but we didn’t ask for anything that we didn’t get. We’re very pleased with it, its responsible and it supports agriculture and those are the two big ones with me,” said Stewart.