Drought creates perfect storm for producers
"The drought of 2021 created a very challenging year for farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan. We hope to never see a crop year like this again, but we need to be assured that if we do, producers won’t be left high and dry."
-Todd Lewis, APAS President
What a difference a year makes. After two growing seasons with generally good production, farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan faced one of the most severe droughts in Prairie history. In 2020, our production and sales kept the Saskatchewan economy moving during COVID shutdowns in other sectors. In 2021, Producers looked to the sky in the spring, hoping, and in many cases, praying for rain that never came. The summer saw hot and dry conditions throughout most of the province, drying up fields and baking struggling crops. Any moisture that did fall was immediately soaked in by the thirsty earth, leaving little left for pastures, hay land, and crops.
Commodity prices reached new heights this year, but many producers could not reap the benefits of record-high market prices because there was little to no product to sell.
Instead, farmers and ranchers with hay crops that didn’t produce were left to pay at least 100% more for a bale of hay to feed their livestock. The record-high prices of feed have resulted in some farmers facing a potential selling off their breeding stock. While livestock producers are very grateful for the assistance provided by the Provincial and Federal governments through Agri-Recovery, the drought in 2021 has highlighted the need for improved business risk management programs in the future.
In 2020, The federal and provincial governments spoke continuously about how the agricultural sector will drive Canada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers and ranchers want to be involved in that economic recovery, but when the worst drought of decades set into Canada’s grain belt, governments were hesitant in terms of support for struggling producers. Farmers and ranchers deserve better from our governments which is why APAS released a list of priorities for federal leadership to consider for the fall election. The list included improvements to connectivity in rural Saskatchewan, reforming Business Risk Management programs and improvements to market transparency as producers are at the mercy of set market prices. APAS also put pressure on businesses in the agriculture value chain to allow producers to revise contracts signed the previous season as many farmers and ranchers could have never predicted the drought that was on its way. Additional pressure was also placed upon grain elevators to eliminate administration fees and reduce penalties for the 2021-22 growing season. Under these circumstances, producers, governments, and businesses involved in the agriculture sector need to work together and offer assistance to struggling farmers and ranchers to ensure future prosperity for the agricultural industry. The drought of 2021 created a very challenging year for farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan. We hope to never see a crop year like this again, but we need to be assured that if we do, producers won’t be left high and dry.