Agriculture Minister David Marit announced $10 million dollars to help livestock producers manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding includes $5 million for Saskatchewan's share of the Federal-Provincial Set Aside Program under AgriRecovery.

Saskatchewan's livestock producers will now be able to access a total of $12.5 million under the set-aside program.

He says our livestock sector is facing tremendous challenges, with producers facing higher costs to feed animals that cannot move along the supply chain as they normally would.

“Usually about 3500 head are ready to go to market at this time of the year. Recently, I think it was less than 400 fed cattle from Saskatchewan were processed in Alberta. So, obviously we see that starting to back up and I think as of last week are estimating about 15,000 head of market ready fed cattle have already been impacted by the slowdown in processing.”

Saskatchewan Cattle Feeder Association President Chad Ross says we welcome the measures announced today and look forward to continuing to work closely with government and other industry partners to support producers.

“It is vital that we work together to address the impact of the serious challenges presented by COVID-19.”

Along with the $5 Million for the Set Aside program, there’s $5 million to help ease the premium costs associated with buying livestock price insurance.

Marit says the Province will provide 40% of the increased premium costs for producers under the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program retroactive to February 25, 2020.

“We felt with the premiums where they were, we'd hit, we’d seen some highs recently as well over $80 for the calf insurance program on the premium side. We felt it was important to help the cow-calf producers on the premium side and that's why we announced a 40 per cent, on the premium, differential to help them out.

The deadline to buy calf price insurance is being extended from May 28th to June 18th, so far, only about 6% of the marketable calf crop is insured.

Marit notes the premium adjustments will be in place until September 1st 2020.

He says the Province will continue to encourage the Federal Government to support the sector by contributing the remaining 60 per cent of the increase in premium costs under WLPIP.

In a press release last week, Alberta was the first Province to fully commit funding to the new Federal-Provincial AgriRecovery Set-Aside Program. 

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of  Agriculture and Forestry says the province provides most of the country's beef, and the current disruption is resulting in substantial costs for our ranchers. 

"We're doing everything we can to ensure beef, pork and potato producers are able to stay afloat until things return to normal."

A new fed cattle set-aside program will allow beef producers to hold on to slaughter-ready cattle on maintenance feed ration for several weeks, allowing the supply of animals to more evenly match demand and reduced processing capacity

Cattle producers will be compensated for the extraordinary costs until the backed-up inventory is cleared. Currently, there are about 130,000 cattle backed up in feedlots as a result of reduced operating capacity at major beef processing plants in Alberta. This comes at a substantial cost to cattle producers.

The Government of Alberta will immediately increase the interim payment under AgriStability from 50 per cent to 75 per cent for the hog sector. This will put up to $25 million in the hands of pork producers immediately. Increasing the advance payment under AgriStability will result in the equivalent of $20 per head for pork producers enrolled in AgriStability.

The closure of most food service outlets across North America has cut the volume for french fries being consumed. In response, the Alberta government will also immediately increase the advance payment under AgriStability from 50 per cent to 75 per cent for the potato industry, to get cash in hands of potato producers immediately. 

Alberta's Beef Producer's Chair Kelly Smith-Fraser says Alberta beef producers appreciate the commitment and leadership shown by the Government of Alberta through the contribution of matching funds to AgriRecovery for a set-aside program to immediately support our industry. 

"Thank you, Minister Dreeshen, for recognizing the devastating impacts COVID-19 is having on Alberta's beef industry and working together with the federal government to support the needs of producers so we can maintain our food supply chain."