Saskatchewan pares ag spending in estimates

Spending estimates released without revenue forecasts

(Dave Bedard photo)

Saskatchewan expects to pull back its spending on agriculture by about $22.4 million in its 2020-21 budget year, mainly in a reduced outlay on business risk management (BRM) programs.

Provincial Finance Minister Donna Harpauer on Wednesday tabled the province’s 2020-21 spending estimates with the “unusual step” of not including revenue forecasts, citing the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Estimated spending on the agriculture file includes an appropriation of $366.2 million and capital asset amortization of $2.67 million, for total estimated expense of $368.9 million, down from an estimated $391.3 million for the 2019-20 budget year.

The most significant estimated spending markdown for 2020-21 is on AgriStability, the federal/provincial farm income stabilization program, to $19.98 million, down from $32.9 million in 2019-20.

Provincial spending on crop insurance program premiums is also estimated to fall by $15.9 million in 2020-21, to $139.07 million.

Ag spending to be eliminated in 2020-21 includes the province’s Crown land sale incentive program, which had been earmarked for an estimated $1.55 million in 2019-20.

Increased spending is projected for “regional services” such as ag extension work, at just over $37 million, up $4.8 million from 2019-20.

“The key investments in this spending plan for the upcoming year provide stability and include significant spending lifts in many areas, including health, and significant economic stimulus through capital spending,” Harpauer wrote in a message attached to Wednesday’s estimates.

“And if we didn’t proceed with tabling the estimates, we wouldn’t be able to move ahead with any of these new spending initiatives or stimulus as we start the new fiscal year. So we need to move forward with the estimates now.”

Harpauer added that “more may have to be done to address both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19” in Saskatchewan, but the “full impact” of planned federal measures is still uncertain.

The province, she said, may have to make “adjustments to address the economic fallout” from the pandemic, adding:”we fully recognize that this may mean a deficit.”

That said, she added that Saskatchewan has $1.3 billion in cash reserves and has also “shifted reliance on resource revenues” such as from oil and potash, to an expected 12 per cent, down from a previous high of 32. — Glacier FarmMedia Network



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