Saskatchewan’s premier thinks the group that represents local farmers should have reached out before it started criticizing remarks made by the finance minister.

Last week, a war of words was waged between the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and the government regarding the provincial deficit and crop insurance payments.

“I think we have a couple ministers who were to some degree caught off guard, that there was a letter put out without a prior phone call with respect to some pretty you know direct criticism,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said.

APAS said it is concerned about the province’s claim that Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) payments “caused the provincial deficit in 2021,” in a news release Wednesday. The comments follow the government’s mid-year fiscal update, where the province said the deficit is higher than was forecast at budget, despite mid-year revenue growth.

It started a flurry of letters betters between APAS and the government.

Minister of Agriculture David Marit and Minister of Finance Donna Harpaur responded to APAS’ claims in a letter addressed to president Todd Lewis on Wednesday afternoon, calling the suggestion that the province blamed producers for the deficit “false” and “offensive.”

“The comments provided by Vice-President Ian Boxall suggest that perhaps he is unfamiliar with the concept of summary financial reporting, a budgeting standard that the province adopted in 2014,” the letter from the government reads.

Harpauer said while delivering the province’s fiscal update last week, that Saskatchewan would have seen a significant improvement from budget and a much lower deficit had it not been for support needed for producers as a result of the drought.

The provincial budget will record an additional $1.8 billion in crop insurance claims and $292.5 million in assistance to cattle producers. The crop insurance money came from premiums paid by farmers. APAS said it’s not fair to blame producers for a deficit in a drought year.

“Producers are concerned that the general public has a perception that farmers are receiving a break or a bailout when they receive a crop insurance cheque,” the latest letter from Todd Lewis, APAS president, said.

The money comes from a fund cost-shared by producers, the federal and provincial governments.

The government stands by its remarks.

“If we could disregard, not just set aside the support that is required to be paid out to producers because of the support program that we have in place, Saskatchewan would be very close actually to being in a balanced budget situation this year,” Moe explained

APAS and the government both agree that their goal is to work in the best interest of farmers. APAS says it didn’t mean to offend anyone and the two sides are engaging in private discussions.