Drought prompts officials in east-central Alberta to declare disaster

CAMROSE — A county in east-central Alberta has declared a local state of agricultural disaster as extremely dry weather conditions continue to wage war on the province’s crops.

CAMROSE — A county in east-central Alberta has declared a local state of agricultural disaster as extremely dry weather conditions continue to wage war on the province’s crops.

Paul King, manager of agriculture for Camrose County, says he hopes the disaster declaration will draw the attention of provincial and federal government officials and provide assistance that the county so desperately needs.

He says canola farmers are seeing damage to up to 80 per cent of their crops and cattle producers are struggling as the majority of their pasture lands dry up.

He calls it a one-in-25-year drought situation.

Compounding the lack of moisture with a significantly cooler spring, the two frosts back-to-back at the start of seeding in June really set farmers back.

But Alberta Agriculture spokeswoman Nikki Booth says there is no specific legislation — provincial or federal — that can act on or deal specifically with declarations of agricultural disaster.

“We have all these programs in place, but this is outside what we would normally expect our agricultural insurance to protect, so we need the extra help,” argued King.

He said governments could provide aid with water hauling trucks, drought loans, acreage payments and counselling.

Booth said farmers in affected areas can seek support and assistance through a variety of programs offered by the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation at www.afsc.ca or www.agric.gov.ab.ca or by calling 310-FARM.

This includes a tax deferral benefit for producers who have had to sell their breeding herd due to a drought-induced lack of livestock feed, as well as agricultural investment, recovery, stability and insurance programs.

Booth said farmers can also make use of the 117 weather stations, installed during the last major drought of 2002, for farmers to monitor historical data and trends in their area dating as far back as 1961 and purchase insurance based on that information.

“We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as the growing season progresses,” Booth said, adding things could change drastically as we enter the four wettest weeks of the season. “As the situation unfolds, we’ll continue to look at it and see what else needs to be done.”

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