How bad has the Alberta drought been?
On Thursday, Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier compared this year’s conditions to the 2009 drought.
“It’s no doubt we are in a drought situation,” he said. “There’s no doubt there’s some challenges being faced by many of the producers in the province.”
The Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has already paid out about $70 million in crop insurance claims this year and expects to pay out between $700 million to $900 million to producers when all is said and done this year.
“We have been working with the federal government to ensure that livestock producers in affected communities qualify for tax deferrals if they need to sell off part of their herds,” said Carlier. “We welcome the recent federal government announcement on this.”
Recent estimates have pegged this year’s crop yields to come in 25 to 30 per cent lower than the five-year average. Although recent rainfall has, at least, given producers some precipitation to work with, the prolonged summer drought has prompted many Alberta counties to declare a state of agricultural disaster.
On Thursday, Carlier, who said he toured many agricultural areas in the province, resisted declaring a province-wide state of disaster, but admitted that Alberta’s farms aren’t looking good.
“Some of the crops barely reached past my ankle,” he said.
Carlier also announced that the government is cutting rental fees in half for drought-affected producers that use the emergency water pumping program to obtain water for their livestock through lakes, rivers and other water supplies.
The fee reduction will be applied retroactively to April 1 and will be in place for the entire 2015-16 fiscal year.
Alberta is also looking at opening up more public land for producers to graze their livestock.
“Environment and Parks will be considering and approving applications for access to appropriate Crown lands and authorizing subleases in cases where the leaseholder is not fully utilizing the land,” Carlier said. “This will help producers who are struggling with inadequate pasture and high hay prices.”
Hay prices have reportedly ballooned to five times its normal cost.
Despite the tough climate for producers, Carlier asserted his confidence in the farming community to stick together through these tough times.
“We’ve been through these conditions before, and I am confident we will get through this adversity once again,” he said.