Cattle farmers across Saskatchewan are hoping the federal government will give them a tax break as they are forced to send their herds to slaughter because of prolonged poor weather.
"Farmers are facing the tough choice of having to liquidate their herds," said Scott Owens, vice president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and a grain producer from northwestern Saskatchewan.
Owens says producers in west, central and southwestern Saskatchewan were hit hard by drought last year, leading to a shortage of feed for the animals.
[They] were hoping to turn their cattle out into the pastures here this spring. However, the lack of moisture this spring has led to reduced growth and just not enough grass for the cattle to graze on. - Scott Owens, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan
Farmers who made it through the tough year were optimistic the situation would improve in 2022, Owens says.
"[They] were hoping to turn their cattle out into the pastures here this spring. However, the lack of moisture this spring has led to reduced growth and just not enough grass for the cattle to graze on," Owens said.
This has led to tough choices, he says.
"These are living creatures that are taken care of, and when you don't have any food — or water in some cases — for them you can't keep them around. You can't take care of them anymore and you're forced to send them off for slaughter."
Owens says the sale of an entire herd brings in a high level of income, and that's why they're asking for the tax deferral: to spread that spike in income over the next few years instead of losing a huge portion of the money to tax.
"It kind of eases the pain today and gives you a hope for tomorrow that you might be able to get back into the business," Owens said.
Owens said the producers are asking that the tax break to be applied province-wide because the problems go beyond the drought. He said cattle producers in southeastern Saskatchewan are also grappling with high levels of moisture "to the point where pastures are flooded out as opposed to being dried out."
Feds say eligible regions yet to be determined
A spokesperson for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said in an email the government does have a "livestock tax deferral, which allows livestock producers to defer their tax paid from the sale of breeding livestock when facing drought conditions."
Regions eligible for the deferral are when forage yields are "less than 50 per cent of the long-term average, and the area affected is large enough to have an impact on the industry."
They said federal officials are working with provincial forage experts to evaluate the impact of droughts across the country to ensure designations under the provision "accurately reflect local growing conditions."
"We understand that a timely announcement of those regions is important for the industry, and we anticipate that an initial list of regions meeting the criteria for the livestock tax deferral will be made available in the coming weeks," the spokesperson wrote