Farmers say government threw them “under the bus” in financial report

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APAS said the minister should not have indicated that farmers’ insurance claims were to blame for an expected increase in the 2021-2022 deficit.

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Saskatchewan farm producers said the provincial government threw them “under the bus” in the finance minister’s comments in Monday’s mid-year budget update.

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Ian Boxall, vice-president of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Producers Association (APAS), said the government unfairly attributed a $ 97 million increase in the forecast deficit to producers with access to crop insurance during from a particularly difficult drought year in Saskatchewan.

In a press release, Boxall said, “It’s not fair to blame growers for a provincial deficit in a drought year when that (crop insurance) surplus runs out.”

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer called the APAS statement “an attack on our government.”

The dusting began on Monday, when Harpauer said historically high payments to farmers contributed to the growing government deficit. Harpauer pointed out that had it not been for the payment to farmers, the government would have been in a better position.

“Without the drought, we would have seen a significant improvement in the budget and a much lower deficit, based on higher incomes across all major categories,” Harpauer said in the budget update Monday.

Boxall wonders why the government chose to frame it this way since there is $ 1.3 billion left in the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation fund, even after payments that have already been made this year. Much of this money, he said, came from insurance premiums paid by farmers.

“There is more than enough money to pay the claims that have been claimed this year. It’s an accounting practice that the government does, ”Boxall said in an interview Wednesday.

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Speaking on behalf of shareholders and members of APAS, Boxall said the farmers are happy to contribute to the fund and happy that it is used for general needs in good years.

But 2021 was not a good year and farmers needed help.

“Don’t throw us under the bus when we have a huge drought and when that payment is needed,” Boxall said.

Harpauer said on Wednesday the government was not blaming farmers. His office is required by public accounting practices to show all summary financial statements, including the fact that the government paid more money to farmers than expected.

“We’re not saying the agricultural producers were at fault, we’re just saying it was a catastrophic year that drastically depleted this fund,” Harpauer said.

“My problem with what they’ve done is the message,” Boxall said, fearing it could “contribute to the divide, the urban-rural divide”.

In a letter to APAS Chairman Todd Lewis de Harpauer and Agriculture Minister David Marit, the government asked Boxall to withdraw his statements from the previous press release, saying he “is unfamiliar with with the concept of summary financial information “.

The government letter also called Boxall’s statements “offensive” and noted that she has always supported farmers and hopes APAS “will not take this support for granted the next time it considers doing so. such a reckless statement “.

Which, for Boxall, supported his concern about the tone and nature of the letter.

“At the end of the day, that’s the message,” he said.

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