Agriculture disaster declared in Alberta after losses from extreme weather

The provincial government declared the agricultural economic losses and hardship resulting from Alberta's extreme weather is a disaster on Friday.

Declaration means producers with insurance will be compensated for their losses 'in a timely manner'

This farmer in Parkland County typically sells up to 70 per cent of his grain, but this year's dry conditions mean he will have to use every bit of his small yield to keep his own operation going. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The provincial government declared on Friday the agricultural economic losses and hardship resulting from Alberta's extreme weather are a disaster.

The main culprits affecting Alberta crops are drought in the spring and hail this summer.

"Essentially the declaration provides the mechanism for Agriculture Financial Services Corporation to access more of our premiums and reserves to ensure producers with insurance are compensated for their losses in a timely manner," said government spokesperson Renato Gandia in an email.

Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier has said in the past that the AFSC has several programs designed to help farmers and ranchers through difficult times. Producers have access to crop insurance, farm loans and other risk management programs, such as AgriStability and AgriInvest. 

About 80 per cent of Alberta's farmers have been impacted by the drought. The AFSC anticipates paying out $700 million to $900 million in claims this year. About $70 million has been paid so far.

The province is also talking to the federal government about allowing producers to defer their taxes and is cutting rental fees in half for drought-affected producers who use the emergency water pumping program.

Crop yield down

Carlier said earlier this month the drought would mean a bad year for some farmers and ranchers, but they have seen worse times. He wasn't ready to declare a provincewide disaster as recently as Aug. 6.

But the latest provincial crop report says this year's harvest in Alberta will be roughly 25 per cent below the five-year average.

While Alberta saw rain over the past week — and even some snow — it comes too late for Alberta farmers who have started to harvest.

"Rain a week or two ago would have helped us from a quality standpoint, you know providing us at least with a plumper, heavier kernel," said James Wright with the AFSC on Aug. 14.

"Now that we are in drydown, any moisture now would be almost more of deficit than a help."

Brian Otto, a farmer near Warner in southern Alberta, told CBC News last week that his reduced crop yield will hurt his bottomline.

"We have hopes that, you know, in a dry year at least the weather will give us a chance to get what we do have off in good quality," he said.

Wright says it could have an impact on the consumer's pocketbook as well.

"With less product, prices will be higher," he said.


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