State of agricultural disaster declared

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August 4, 2015 8:15 AM

The County of Vermilion River announced on Thursday, July 30 that its council passed a motion declaring a state of agricultural disaster.

As part of the announcement, the county said that it will ask officials from higher levels of government to review safety net programs for producers.

“The biggest thing (the government) can do for us is make solid changes to the way that they adjust these crops,” said Reeve Daryl Watt. “We have crop insurance and we have ag-risk ability that helps address a situation like this, but the way they were adjusting the crops previously and up until now hasn’t been working. It doesn’t allow the farmers to harvest these crops for feed.”

Producers throughout the County of Vermilion River have been hampered all summer long by extremely low rainfall, particularly on the eastern half of the region.

On average, the county has received just 112 millimetres of precipitation since April 2015, which is less than half of what it received from April to September 2014.

On July 30, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke posted a tweet that called out the Alberta NDP government for its failure to address the agricultural crises throughout the province.

“14 & counting—@vermilionriver County declares state of agricultural disaster. @albertaNDP government remains silent. No respect for #ruralAB,” he wrote. Starke was unable to be reached to comment before press time.

In a news release, the county said it anticipates a herd culling to adjust livestock numbers to the available feed supplies. If agriculture recovery support is available, the county says it wants its producers to be eligible.

See “Ag disaster,” Page 7

“There’s just nowhere near enough feed to accommodate all the cattle that are here,” said Watt. “There could be large-scale selldowns, and the crop yield - it’s going to be abysmal in large areas of our county. Some areas are fine, but there’s large areas of our county where the crop yields are going to be terrible.”

As of the 2011 Federal Census, there were 1,029 farms and 1,363,640 acres of farmable and hay land within the County of Vermilion River.

Also in the news release, the county drew attention to four points that it would like the provincial and federal governments to address:

1. The variable amounts of rainfall received in the county ranging from approximately 30 per cent of long-term average to near normal;

2. The county’s recommendation that 2015 crop yields be excluded from the crop insurance long-term average for individual producers;

3. The county’s recommendation that the yield determination methodology for extremely late emerging annual crops be reviewed to enable these crops to be salvaged for livestock feed while they still have adequate nutritional value;

4. And the county’s recommendation that the Agri-Recovery Program be reviewed with a view to making it more responsive to drought situations.

Watt says that the county initially discussed the possibility of a regional declaration at the beginning of July, but it never came to fruition.

“Some areas aren’t affected, and obviously then they can’t declare or won’t declare,” Watt said.

But with the County of Vermilion River having now made its declaration, Watt expects attention and action, sooner rather than later.

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