It has not been an easy growing season for farmers across the Canadian prairies this year, and the struggles do not seem to be going away anytime soon. With record setting and breaking temperatures occurring throughout Alberta this summer, the agriculture industry has had to contend with stagnated growth of many crops, and many producers are facing lower yields than predicted at the start of the growing season. The hot weather is back, with temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s coming through the region this past weekend and no significant amount of rain predicted to arrive.
According to the July 27 Alberta Crop Report put out by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF), only 20% of the annual crops are rating as good or excellent, first cut hay is at average 1.0 ton per acre, and 50 per cent of the pasture acres are rated as poor. Many grain crops have been reported as being turned to pasture or cut for silage. Region Three, which includes Vermilion and the surrounding areas have reported that overall, crop conditions are 63 per cent, (below the five-year average of 83 per cent) good or excellent. Crop stages for spring cereals are mostly in the early to mid-milk stage, while fall-seeded cereals have started to ripen. Canola is 73 per cent podding and dry peas have finished podding. Pasture is currently rated as 67 per cent poor, 18 per cent fair, and 15 per cent good. First-cut dryland hay is reported as 95 per cent completed with estimated yields of 0.9 tons per acre and quality rated as 78 per cent good or excellent.
The hail storm that hit the area south of highway 619 on July 22 just made things worse for some local farms. The heat had already shut down growth of several crops, and the hail damage wrote some crops right off. Some farmers in the region will have to file insurance claims to help compensate for the loss in crop yields this fall. At this point, all some rain will do is help fill the heads out on crops that are still viable, but the window for that moisture to be effective is shrinking rapidly.
Conditions have become so extreme that several counties and municipalities in the province, including the Counties of St. Paul and Minburn have declared States of Agricultural Disasters in their areas. An Agricultural Disaster Declaration is used by municipalities to bring awareness to issues surrounding excessive moisture and drought, which are having an impact on agricultural production. The declarations inform the provincial and federal governments that aid is needed by municipalities to get through a particularly horrible farming season. The intent is for declarations to encourage governments to initiate the necessary programs of relief for local producers.
At this time Alberta has a verbal commitment from the federal government that a joint AgriRecovery program will be created to support Alberta Ag producers. On July 22, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau announced the early designation of the Livestock Tax Deferral provision for prescribed drought regions of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Minister Bibeau also announced federal support to all Prairie provinces for immediate bilateral adjustments to the cost-shared AgriInsurance program to make drought-damaged crops available for feed. These measures will increase the amount of crops available for livestock producers in this time of need, thereby helping offset the increased cost of feed.