By Nikki Jamieson
Westwind Weekly News
The province is providing support and resources to help the the agriculture industry weather the ongoing drought. As the hot weather and drought conditions continue through the summer, the Albertan Government promoted programs that were available for ag producers, to help manage the financial risk for producers and providing a insistent water supply, among other things.
The majority of the province is currently experiencing 365-day moisture deficits that occur less than once in 50 years. When combined with below-average growing season precipitation, above-average temperatures and high winds, it has created acute moisture stress in many agricultural areas.
“Alberta’s government is here for our cattle producers. We’re working with industry to identify their most pressing concerns and making sure they have the supports they need to make it through this difficult time. We will continue to support the agriculture industry in whatever way we can,” said Devin Dreeshen, minister of agriculture and forestry for Alberta, in a Aug. 3 press release.
Some of the featured supports include: The governments of Canada and Alberta, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, recently doubled the low yield threshold to encourage Alberta grain farmers to divert additional cereal or pulse crops to be salvaged for livestock feed.
Alberta’s Water Pumping Program provides assistance to producers in securing adequate water supplies for domestic, livestock or agricultural purposes.
Alberta announced a 20 per cent reduction in premium costs for crop, pasture and forage insurance earlier this year, which protects against weather-related production loss. As a result, 400 additional farmers and ranchers enrolled, almost 1,400 farmers and ranchers increased their level of coverage and almost 230 clients re-enrolled after cancelling their insurance in 2020 or prior years.
Alberta’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) hired an additional 21 adjustment team members in December 2020 and April 2021, bringing the total number of active adjustment team members to 119. The government has advised crop adjusters to be flexible and complete early assessments to convert crops to livestock feed.
The federal Livestock Tax Deferral allows farmers who sell part of their breeding herd due to drought or flooding in prescribed drought or flood regions to defer a portion of sale proceeds to the following year.
A number of provinces have joined with Alberta in requesting that the federal government undertake a formal assessment for an AgriRecovery response, which designed to cover uninsurable costs, such as those incurred due to extreme drought conditions.
Alberta officials are also working identify extraordinary circumstances not covered by existing programs and advocate for new solutions. This assessment is currently underway and includes collaboration with industry stakeholders. Dreeshen, Premier Jason Kenney, Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon and Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development Nate Horner had toured cattle producers ear Bassano last month to view effect of the dry conditions.
“I appreciated the opportunity to show Premier, Minister Dreeshen, Minister Nixon and Associate Minister Horner the impacts of drought first-hand. I value their acknowledgement of the severity and urgency of the situation. AgriRecovery programming and other initiatives are going to be essential to maintain Alberta cattle herds,” said Melanie Wowk, chair of the Alberta Beef Producers.
“I want to thank the Government of Alberta for taking the time to personally experience the drought conditions. On behalf of Western Stock Growers’Association, Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Alberta Beef Producers, we are looking forward to discussing drought solutions for all producers in the province,” said Brad Dubeau, general manager of the Alberta Beef Producers.
A list of resources for farming in dry conditions is available on alberta.ca, which is being updated on a bi-weekly basis.
On Aug. 6, the Alberta Government also announced that they are making $136 million available under the Agri-Recovery program, a joint program between the governments of Alberta and Canada, and have asked the federal government to provide an additional $204 million for a total relief package of $340 million. At the time of the announcement, the federal government was evaluating the request and earlier that day had announced $100 million in immediate relief for Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta.
AgriRecovery falls under the joint federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership, and aims to cover extraordinary costs not covered by existing business risk management programs, such as those incurred due to extreme drought conditions or other natural disasters. Programming costs for the AgriRecovery program are split 60-40 between the provincial and federal governments.
If approved, the funding will provide financial support and serve as an immediate cash flow for Alberta’s livestock producers and beekeepers to purchase feed, water and fencing.
Alberta Environment and Parks had also approved several temporary changes to grazing and water regulations to open new sources of feed for livestock.
“Alberta’s government will always stand behind our farmers and ranchers. They have endured an exceptionally difficult year because of drought conditions and I am pleased that we are able to provide this relief and support to help them get through this time. These hard-working Albertans are always there for us. We owe it to them to be there when they need us,” said Kenney in a press release.
Under a new AgriRecovery program, the province will be providing an immediate payment of $94 per head to help cover feed and water access costs for breeding females across the province. Through a receipt-based approach, a second payment of $106 per head will go out later in the year, for a total of $200. The program will be administered through the Alberta Financial Services Corporation, and application details will be unveiled after the federal government reviews the proposal.
Alberta Environment and Parks is also accepting applications from existing grazing disposition holders, including leases, licences and permits, with additional grazing capacity to allow livestock from other producers who are in need of additional feed. Holder are being encouraged to work with their neighbours and community, applications for temporary grazing or haying on vacant crown lands are also available and grazers will be permitted in the forest reserve to extend the time for grazing where there is sufficient forage to do so.
Nixon has also signed off on the creation of a temporary streamlined program to allow for the quick provision of water to livestock and poultry producers in drought areas.
Environment and Parks agrologists are available to meet with producers and to help provide more region-specific information about available support and best management practices, including how they can access potential water and feed sources.
To speak with an agrologists, livestock producers can call 310-FARM (3276).