Calgary

Alberta farmers face challenge of salvaging last year's soggy crops before spring seeding

The chances for a good crop this year in parts of Alberta could be jeopardized by the fact that more than 400,000 hectares of damaged crops are still sitting under the snow, unharvested last fall because of winter’s early arrival.

Many crops got snowed on before 2016 harvest, complicating this planting season

Damp conditions followed by early snow last fall prevented many Alberta farmers from harvesting their crops before winter. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The chances for a good crop this year in parts of Alberta could be jeopardized by the fact that more than 400,000 hectares of damaged crops are still sitting under the snow, unharvested last fall because of winter's early arrival. 

Canola, wheat and barley lay in fields up and down Alberta, much of it covered in snow, and much of it ruined, said Warren Sekulic, a farmer and director with the Alberta Wheat Commission.

It's an unprecedented situation, he said.

Some parts of Alberta were hit with rain and hail in September at the height of the harvest, followed by a dump of heavy, wet snow in early October. 

"I know there's couple of guys I talked to in central Alberta that have farmed [for many years] and they've never had a fall like this," he said. "This one takes the cake."

Sekulic said northern, central and eastern Alberta have been hardest hit, but there are many pockets across the province where crops are still snowed in.

Snow and muddy fields made it impossible to continue the harvest on Glen Stankievech's farm near Trochu, Alta., in October 2016. (Courtesy of Glen Stankievech)

Farmers need to wait for the snow to melt to find out if they will have to destroy their crops, or if some of the yield can be salvaged at drastically reduced prices, he said.

Farmers will get some help from insurance companies, but Jason Lenz, chairman of the Alberta Barely Commission, said there's no escaping a big financial hit.

"At best, I would say most producers are looking at a break even at very best, but likely to be quite a significant loss," he said.

Farmers need an early, dry spring to help them get a good start on planting for this year, Lenz said. 

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