Agriculture Minister David Marit announced Monday that the top-up for eligible livestock producers through the 2023 Canada Saskatchewan Feed program, is on its way.

The program was put in place last fall to help producers maintain the breeding herd in drought-impacted areas of the province, by covering up to 70 per cent of extraordinary costs related to feed and freight from May 1st, 2023 to March 15th, 2024.

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay says drought conditions are having a serious impact on livestock producers right across Saskatchewan.

"We will continue working closely with the province to ensure affected producers have access to the financial tools they need to protect their operations."

Saskatchewan’s AgriRecovery Program has been referred to as the Canada-Saskatchewan Feed Program since October 2023. 

Marit says the Program provides producers with additional relief measures to offset extraordinary costs to secure feed for livestock.

"What we had said when we first started is we were going to pay out the 75% up to the $200.00 and see where that got too. We had allocated about $70 million, and the federal government had allocated about $77 million."

Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities President Ray Orb says SARM values the ongoing commitment from both levels of senior government to Saskatchewan agriculture.

Producers submitted their receipts or appropriate documents outlining their extraordinary expenses to the program.

Marit says they've seen a strong response to the program with just under 3500 applications and a payout of just over $66 million.

"There were some municipalities that the federal government didn't put into the program, they didn't allow them in. We (the province) did the whole province as far as our share. So those producers that are outside of the federal boundary that they seemed to come up with, we will be paying those producers a top-up of our share, which would be the $20."

The Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association says the last couple of years have been a struggle for cattle producers in the province and they're pleased to see the funding roll out.

CEO Grant McClellan says the program has made a big difference for producers who had the opportunity to apply for the program.

"We really saw the benefit of some of those dollars. As you know, certainly these are not small amounts when we talk about the feed that was necessary to help sustain some cattle herds through the fall, over the winter last year, and this spring. It's going to be necessary for folks to hold on to those animals so that we can hopefully regrow their herd."

He notes ultimately we're hoping an Agri-Recovery program - an ad hoc program won't be needed again. 

"Certainly we are not looking for that type of program. We asked for a lot of changes to the existing programs and we did see a lot of those programs get changed in the way that we requested it because certainly we want a reliable predictable program for our producers. We believe with the improvements that have been made to the other business risk management programs, we're really hopeful that folks have taken advantage of those. And also we're just hopeful that there's rain and a good season this summer."

Under the program, initial payments were prorated to a maximum of 75 per cent of the total payment based on the application from producers. This prorated approach ensured that all eligible producers could receive support. The current outstanding total program budget allows for the remaining 25 per cent to complement the initial payments issued to producers who applied and were deemed eligible before the deadline. Producers within the designated regions, as originally guided by the Canadian Drought Monitor map will receive a top up of up to $50 per head. Applicants that were in the provincial-only area will receive a top up of up to $20 per head.

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association General Manager Chad MacPherson says producers greatly appreciate this additional drought assistance that will bring the per head assistance up to 2021 support levels in the hardest hit regions of the province.

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation’s Feed Team will automatically reprocess the approved applications, with the top up payments going out to producers in the coming weeks.