A hot dry summer is something Saskatchewan residents are used to, but the temperatures this summer affected crops, livestock, and wildlife so negatively; it became our number 3 story of this year. 

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, historians are comparing this last year’s drought to the 1930s and producers look ahead for a more positive 2022 growing season. 

Here are some of the stories we coved this year in relation to the drought. 

AAFC Develops New Drought Outlook Tool

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) new Drought Outlook tool predicts drought conditions 30-days into the future.

The tool was developed by AAFC Agroclimate Specialists Trevor Hadwen, Marilee Pregitzer, Dr. Catherine Champagne, Calvin Poff, and Richard Warren.

The Drought Outlook:

- Is the first tool of its kind in Canada for predicting future regional drought conditions.

- Forecasts 30 days into the future based on AAFC’s current monthly Canadian Drought Monitor assessment in combination with ECCC precipitation and temperature forecasts.

Forecasts will be made available through the National Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) for the purposes of informing producers and policy developers.

SSGA Puts Forward A Drought Survival Proposal To Government

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association has submitted a drought survival proposal to the provincial and federal governments.

President Kelcy Elford says this year's drought is severe and while they greatly appreciate government efforts to date, there is no end in sight for these extreme conditions and producers need to see additional measures now.

"We need additional, immediate action to be taken, including an announcement of AgriRecovery programming to ensure that livestock producers are able to make critical, time-sensitive business decisions. We have been closely reviewing existing policies and programs that can be adapted. We have confidence in our government. They listen to understand our problems and welcome actionable solutions."

While the Stock Growers greatly appreciate government efforts to date, he says, there is no end in sight for these extreme conditions and producers need additional action now.

"We are encouraging both levels of government to work with grain companies to remove any barriers that are preventing the salvage of feed from forward-contracted crops. We are also recommending that our governments collaborate with the shortline and national railway companies to find affordable transportation for relocating feed, feed grains, and by-products to deficit areas in the province. Canada's livestock and grain sectors are integrated. We've always worked shoulder to shoulder. With mutual endurance in mind, we're calling on grain farmers to make below-average crops and straw available for feed."

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers drought survival proposal covers ways to improve the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program, additional enhancements for Crop Insurance, and proposals on how government can help with financial management and cash flow.

Saskatchewan To Invest $119 Million In AgriRecovery

Agriculture Minister David Marit visited the Maple Creek area yesterday, where he announced $119 million in AgriRecovery funding for the province's livestock producers that have been severely impacted by the drought.

Marit says the program which will be delivered through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance will provide a per head payment to help maintain breeding stock.

"We announced the $100 a head for the livestock sector here in the Province of Saskatchewan to help in any way they can. And that's why it's on a per head on breeding stock, the $100 would be paid out to the livestock producers to be able to use that money how they see fit, if they need it for water, if they need it for feed, or if they need it for other uses."

He notes in addition to cattle producers the funding will also be available for other ruminants such as bison, sheep, and goats.

The amount of the per head payment will be finalized pending the federal agreement.

The province has asked Ottawa to provide $178 million dollars in federal funding, which would mean a total program of $278 million dollars for Saskatchewan.

In addition to the AgriRecovery program, the Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada previously announced an increase to the 2021 AgriStability interim benefit payment percentage from 50 percent to 75 percent, so producers can access a larger portion of their final AgriStability benefit early.

Saskatchewan also introduced changes to the Crop Insurance Program to divert low-yielding crops to feed use.

Marit is encouraging crop producers to consider how these changes could work for their operation and enable them to help a neighbor.

2021 Canada-Saskatchewan Drought Response Initiative

Agriculture Minister David Marit has released the details around Saskatchewan's AgriRecovery program.

Starting September 1st, livestock producers can submit their applications under the 2021 Canada-Saskatchewan Drought Response Initiative.

Eligible Livestock includes female beef, dairy cattle, bison, elk, sheep, or goats.

Producers will receive two payments totaling up to $200/head for cattle, with adjustments based on animal unit equivalents for other livestock.

The initial payment will provide producers with $100 per breeding female equivalent in inventory as of August 1, 2021.

The secondary payments will be up to $100 per breeding female equivalent in inventory as of December 31, 2021.

Marit says the program will be delivered through Saskatchewan Crop Insurance.

"We need the numbers of what their breeding stock is. They're also allowed to hold back 15% of their breeding stock or their replacement heifers for next year's breeding as well. It's a program that we've done a lot of work with the federal government on, to get the details going, so that we can get the applications out as quick as possible. So that the ranchers could really start getting the funds they need. Obviously, whether they need it to replace feed, or whether they needed to improve water or whatever the case may be, but there's the ability for the ranchers to use the money as they see fit for their operation."

The 2021 Canada-Saskatchewan Drought Response Initiative will provide financial relief to help offset the extraordinary costs livestock producers face related to the current drought, with a per head payment on female breeding livestock.

 Harvest Nearly Complete in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan's harvest is nearly wrapped up according to today's Ministry of Agriculture crop report.

Eighty-nine percent of the harvest run is done province-wide, up from 74 percent last week, with the southwest leading the way harvest-wise at 94 percent complete with the northwest bringing up the rear at 77 percent.

"We had a great week this past week, farmers were able to get out there and very little delay," Matthew Struthers, a crops extension specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, said. "Well ahead of our five-year average of 63 per cent, so well ahead of where we normally are for this time of year which is good to see, it's nice to see that harvest will be kind of wrapped up and farmers can forget about it but unfortunate that it was such a poor year for them."

Struther added he expects harvest to be completed within the next two weeks or so.

Lentils, field peas, durum, barley, spring wheat, and chickpeas are all in the 90th percentile harvest-wise, however, a few crops have some large portions to still come off.

"Mostly it's canola and flax that's kind of waiting to be taken off," he said. "Canola takes so long and there's been some issues with re-growth and that's kind of slowed things down. And then flax takes longer to get ready and then it's also quite tough so farmers can leave it out there to pick up last."

There was some crop damage this week reported due to a variety of reasons.

"The biggest damage this week was done by wind, frost, and then there's been quite a bit of wildlife and waterfowl damage now that they're getting out and about in the fields now that there's grain and swaths being laid down."

Most of the frost issues have been reported in the western and eastern parts of the province.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation provides compensation for damage caused by wildlife through the Wildlife Damage Compensation Program.

Ag Sector Shows Resiliency in 2021

Saskatchewan's Agriculture Minister David Marit says the resiliency of the province's agriculture sector has been amazing through 2021.

He says the drought impacted all sectors from grain and oilseeds to livestock, with not only dry conditions, but a water shortage as well.

"We've been going through this for 20 months. They just showed, again, that agriculture really is the backbone of this province, and drives the economy. I mean, to have the year that we went through, and still, you know, see where we are right now. There's some challenging times out there, and I hope we did as a government, did what we could to help the industry and help the stakeholders as a whole to try and get through this and weather this storm."

Marit says the Province brought in additional programs to help like the $200 a head program for breeding stock and the Low Yield Appraisal on Crop Insurance, both of which played an important role.

"To allow, you know, farmers that were in crop insurance if they had a cereal crop that they felt wasn't going to amount to much, probably less than 10 bushels an acre. That's why we doubled all those thresholds. Farmers could write those crops off and then talk to a neighbor - cattle or ranch operation - that if they're needing feed, if they were ready to purchase it, they could sell it and work out a deal."

He notes they wanted to try and help alleviate some of the feed stress, while still trying to protect the livestock sector as a whole, especially on the breeding side.

The drought of 2021 created a number of issues for the province's agriculture sector from lower-yielding crops for the grain and oilseed sector to feed and water shortages for the livestock sector.

"We were kind of hoping that the $200 a head for breeding stock was obviously going to help them access some feed or transport feed. We felt the farm and ranch water programming in raising that threshold to $150,000 for livestock producers only, was a means for them to access water. "