'We're going to need rain soon': Sask. farmers looking for help as heat wave hits

As a heat wave closes in on Saskatchewan, producers are hoping it doesn’t stick around long as they are already dealing with extremely dry conditions in most parts of the province.

The weekly crop report from the Ministry of Agriculture said the majority of crops are in fair to good condition, but need moisture soon. While many parts of Saskatchewan did see some precipitation this week, it wasn’t enough to improve soil moisture conditions or offset the effects of the heat wave.

It said cooler temperatures and rain is needed for the entire province.

“A lot of that moisture that we did receive [in May] has either evaporated or has gone down into the soil profile, so things still remain very much dry,” Shannon Friesen, a crop extensions specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, said. “When we do see these stretches of really hot, dry weather, it’s not very good for us.”

Friesen said some crops have been advancing quickly this year.

“When we have canola flowering and we have 30 to 40 degree weather, we do start to see a lot of what is called ‘heat blasting’ which is essentially abortion of flowers and pods,” she said. “We are anticipating some yield losses from that, but only time will tell.”

In response to the heat wave, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) has asked the provincial government to help.

It’s asking for an increase in the AgriStability Compensation Rate, which offers financial assistance to farmers when they experience a substantial loss from uncontrolled incidents including weather. APAS would also like the province to extend the enrolment deadline, which is currently June 30.

“As we see our margin decrease this year with reduced yield due to the drought and the heat, [we are asking for] an increase of ten per cent on the AgriStability payment,” Ian Boxall, the vice president of APAS, said.

APAS would like to see the compensation increase from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, as farmers deal with the dryest conditions in decades.

“This is going back to the early 2000s type of drought that we had then when we saw ridiculously low yields,” Boxall said. “Right as the crops are starting to flower and they’re really susceptible, we’re getting this huge heat wave here this week that will really dismiss yield across most crops that are flowering.”

The crop report said the majority of crop damage this week came from heat, dry winds, extremely dry soil conditions, gophers and insects.

Producers including Boxall are hoping for precipitation to make its way into the province as early as possible.

“We’re going to need rain soon or the crop will be pretty poor,” he said.

In an emailed statement to CTV News Regina, the Ministry of Agriculture said it has a strong history of supporting the agricultural sector in federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) discussions.

“Producers made it clear that removing the reference margin limit was a top priority, and we agreed to do that. This is a significant change that will increase both the number of clients qualifying and the benefits paid, as well as ensuring all clients are treated equitably under the program,” the statement said.

It said at the FPT Ministers of Agriculture meeting in March, the prairie provinces put forward a proposal for the federal government to provide their 60 per cent share of the cost to increase the compensation rate to 80 per cent, but the federal minister declined.

The Ministry of Agriculture said it encourages all producers in the province to take advantage of existing business risk management programs, particularly crop insurance.