“We were heard”: townhall meetings in drought-stricken parts of Saskatchewan well-attended

A rancher was at a townhall meeting in Kindersley on Tuesday about the drought and what supports are available.

Arlene Boisjoli, who has a ranch south of Kindersley, says the meeting was well-attended by producers and representatives from Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, Farm Credit Canada, and a few R.M. Reeves.

She says her area has been in this drought situation over the last 5 years, with each year getting worse than the last.

Because of that sourcing feed for cattle has become more difficult and expensive. However, she’s been fortunate that neighbours who are grain farmers have supplied them with feed to get them through the last few years.

Sask. Crop Insurance doubled the low yield threshold for grain farmers who decide to use their crops for feed, but Boisjoli’s concern is a gap left by the program.

“The crop insurance for the grain producer is short of what they need…then they need to be able to recover that from the amount they are charging for the feed, so even if they’d like to sell us the feed, there is that gap in between that’s making it hard for everybody.” Boisjoli said.

She says it was talked about at length at the meeting and some good ideas were brought up.

The biggest takeaway for her from the meeting was knowing she’s not alone.

“When you’re sitting at home looking at things it’s pretty gloomy and it’s pretty depressing. By having that meeting, you were able to see that there are a lot of other producers in the exact same situation and that you don’t have to blame yourself about what’s going on because it’s something that’s totally out of you’re control,” she said. “There are some organizations like the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s (Association) and (Saskatchewan) Crop Insurance that came to the meeting that realized the seriousness of this and are attempting to find some help and some solutions to get the producers, whether they be grain farmers or cattlemen, help them get through this situation.”

Boisjoli adds all the producers felt heard.

“Absolutely we were heard,” she said. “They sincerely were listening and taking mental notes and the Saskatchewan (Cattlemen’s Association) had the woman that’s in charge of taking down all of the correspondence she was constantly writing throughout the whole meeting.”

She believes there should be more townhall meetings to better understand what’s happening.

“I think that anytime you can get producers together, even if there’s only two points that come out of that meeting, that are of benefit, I think it’s always a good thing when you can get people together in that type of a setting where they have common goals, they have the ability to sit down with the person next to them, have a chat, and just talk about what’s going on, it’s always a good thing.”

There was another townhall meeting in Perdue on Monday, which had about 100 producers attend.

There were representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Crop Insurance in attendance at Monday’s meeting as well, including Executive Director of the SCA Grant McLellan, who says it’s always very valuable for them to understand the gravity of the situation.

McLellan says at the Perdue meeting producers often referenced programs from 2021 that were valuable to them, such as the AgriRecovery program of 200 dollars per head to ensure they got through the winter with feed.

He says the big thing is to have crop insurance inspectors to get out there as soon as possible.

He says the situation is different this year than two years ago.

“In 2021 it was certainly the entire Province of Saskatchewan was designated as a drought area…now this year it’s not as widespread across the entire province, but some of these areas, in particular the southwest and west-central Saskatchewan, they’ve been in year – in some cases – seven of drought. So it’s more severe, but more acute in in the province in terms of drought.”

“We are really pleased with how many folks took the time to come out and talk to us. We know that with the situation, people are out there cutting hay there’s lots of work to do, obviously people have placed some importance on getting out there for these meetings.” McLellan said.

Author’s note: A previous version of this story made reference to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association. It has since been corrected to the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

More from Saskagtoday.com