Spring seeding in jeopardy on flooded farms in northern Alberta

A northern Alberta farmer says 10 per cent of his land is underwater due to severe flooding along the Whitemud River north of Peace River.

Fall crops still in the field spell double whammy for farms in Peace River area

About 1,500 acres on John Krysztan's farm are underwater due to flooding on the nearby Whitemud River. (Mitchell Krysztan)

A northern Alberta farmer says 10 per cent of his land is underwater due to severe flooding along the Whitemud River north of Peace River.

John Krysztan, a grain farmer near Dixonville, has watched the river steadily rise, and water now covers close to 1,500 acres of his land.

"In some places, it's up to three feet [deep]," he said.

Krysztan said cold and wet weather has already put him three weeks behind in seeding on his 10,000-acre farm.

Now he won't be able to plant anything on those flooded acres.

Extra costs to clean up the land 

"Obviously there won't be any money coming off of that land this year," he said. "And the cleanup is probably going to be pretty costly, like all the debris from the river that's going to be in the fields."

The flooding has compounded problems on Krysztan's farm, which was started by his grandfather in the 1950s.

John Krysztan and his son, Mitchell, stand beside part of their flooded farm. (Karen Krysztan)

"We still have 4,000 acres [of crops] that we left out from last fall, because it was so wet," he said. "And this spring's been so wet, we haven't been able to deal with that yet."

Snow at the end of September prevented him from harvesting the crop.

"I think it's pretty well going to be rotten in the fields," said Krysztan, whose farm is about 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Many Alberta farmers are facing similar problems this spring.

Insurance claims were filed for 960,000 unharvested acres in the province last year, significantly more than the annual average of 23,000 acres during the three previous years.

No money from insurance yet for fall crops

Krysztan has crop insurance with the province's Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.

But so far, he hasn't received any payment for his ruined fall crop.

'We don't have any income from that", he said. "So that's getting to be pretty painful too."

Flooding covers part of the road at John Krysztan's farm near Dixonville, Alta. (Mitchell Krysztan)

Krysztan said if he doesn't get his crop insurance payment soon, he's going to have to borrow money so he can afford to seed and fertilize the rest of his farm.

"We're talking big money," he said. "It's about $1.4 million."

Krysztan said he's got plenty of neighbours in the same situation.

"We've never seen anything play out so badly for us here," he said. "Leaving the crop out last year because of the weather and now we can't get that crop because it's so wet this spring. And now all this flooding. So, I don't think we'll be able to put in quite a bit of crop."

Krysztan is worried that anything he does plant will go in too late to harvest in September.

"You're going to be worried about the frost in the fall time," he said. "And obviously if it's delayed now, it's going to be a very delayed harvest in the fall, so we could have the same situation as last fall."

In a statement sent to CBC News, Alberta Agriculture Minister O'Neill Carlier said conditions have been a roller coaster for many Alberta farmers.

"To help our farmers, I've asked the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation to streamline inspection procedures in getting those crops dealt with as soon as possible, so our farmers can set their eyes toward the new season.

"I've also asked AFSC to provide me with a fulsome assessment of the current situation, and to be prepared to move quickly if the weather conditions don't improve."

Carlier said he has asked AFSC to allocate resources to the hardest hit areas in the province, to deal with claims as quickly as possible.

He said AFSC is also extending its seedling deadline for producers who want crop insurance this year.




Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.