Red Deer County declines to declare an agricultural disaster

Red Deer County council will not join two dozen other Alberta municipalities in declaring an agricultural disaster, despite the urging of a colleague.

Red Deer County council will not join two dozen other Alberta municipalities in declaring an agricultural disaster, despite the urging of a colleague.

Councillor Jim Wood unsuccessfully tried Tuesday to convince council to support a motion declaring a disaster. Wood said while recent rain provided some reprieve, the southeast part of the county is still facing drought conditions and hay crops are suffering throughout the municipality.

“For some producers, there is a disaster,” he said.

Wood said those farmers are looking for acknowledgement of their predicament and the county’s support would help.

“The rest of council did not agree with me,” he said after the meeting. “And that’s unfortunate. I’m very disappointed.”

Among those to declare disasters are Lacombe, Stettler, Camrose and Flagstaff counties.

County Mayor Earl Kinsella said there is no doubt that portions of the county are facing a drought, but other areas of the county are faring much better.

“We’re a long ways from declaring a drought,” he said.

Kinsella also pointed out that it is not up to municipalities to declare disasters — that’s the province’s job. Just because 25 other municipalities have taken that step it doesn’t mean Red Deer County needs to follow suit, he said.

The province has established a drought committee to review the situation and determine if any aid is required. That committee will give no weight to whether a county has declared a disaster when considering aid requests, he said.

“They won’t base it on that. The drought committee will base it on scientific data, how much rainfall, when did it occur . . . That’s what they will base it on, not whether or not the municipality said they had a problem.”

Red Deer County has already notified the province of area conditions and if there is a provincial declaration of drought the municipality expects its hardest hit areas to be included.

Councillor Reimar Poth said it was just a “soother” to suggest something was being done.

“I can’t support a declaration of disaster in Red Deer County when I believe it accomplishes nothing.”

Also skeptical of a disaster declaration was Councillor David Hoar. “I think this is just one of those things we get involved with because it’s neat to be involved in.”

Councillor Jim Lougheed didn’t see how declaring a disaster area will provide any help to producers.

If there was a real disaster the county would respond appropriately, said Councillor George Gehrke. But a majority of the county is in good shape.

Councillor Penny Archibald was absent.

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