It can cramp weekend plans, but rain is the lifeblood of Saskatchewan’s agriculture economy, and at least one area has declared an emergency for lack of it.
The RM of Maple Creek has declared an agricultural disaster due to drought. It’s the only area to go that far, but according to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), there are at least two other areas which are also in dire straits because of drought.
“They’re dealing with some pretty dry conditions, particularly out in the southwest part of the province and maybe more so on the west side,” said Ray Orb, SARM’s president.
He said the conditions vary. There are some areas with drought, a few with enough water, but in many RMs there are both. Orb called it spotty precipitation.
“You could drive a mile or two, you’ll have a drought condition, and then you could proceed a few more miles and you’ll see areas that have received adequate rainfall.”
The hardest hit areas – which includes Maple Creek, Swift Current, and Coronach – have only seen up to 75 millimetres of rain in the last three months, and only 20 millimetres in the last month.
It’s leaving some farmers worried about how many stomachs they’ll be able to fill
Leader-area farmer Jim Hail said his canary seed crop is suffering and he hasn’t seen many neighbouring fields faring much better.
“It’s the same broken-record story unfortunately as it has been most of the spring, but not much you can do about it,” he said. “As long as you feel you’ve done everything you could possibly have done, it’s just kind of the nature of the business.”
Though Orb said it’s worse for cattle producers.
“I think the emergency, more so, it affects the people that have livestock to be able to scramble to get enough feed supplies to keep the cattle herd going, not only for the summer, but also for the winter ahead.”
Orb said he’s talked to some ranchers who said they’re looking at selling part of their herd or culling some of the older cows just to stay afloat.
Though the southwest is the hardest hit area, the whole southern half of the province has only seen up to 175 millimetres in certain areas since April, making for some dusty, dry crops.
Environment Canada said the province saw a general lack of rain up until a couple weeks ago. Patches of weak, low-pressure systems brought rain to many central and northern areas, but missed the province’s southwest.
Meteorologist Terri Lang said they do not see a large low pressure system sweeping across the province in the near future, meaning farmers will have to make due with the little rain they do receive.
The government has a few things to help farmers, like extending the green feed deadline, and opening up land for grazing.
But Orb said there are more things that could be done. SARM will be pushing for an increase in Agri-Stability from the current 70 per cent. before the coming federal election.
“In a year like this when you have drought conditions, if farmers have to rely on agri-stability, they won’t be getting as much funding, most likely, as if the funding was at the 85 per cent level.”
With files from News Talk Radio’s Lasia Kretzel.