Farmers in Brazeau and Lac Ste. Anne counties in central Alberta have ridden the weather rollercoaster this year, but the most recent plunge prompted municipal officials to declare states of agricultural disaster.
About 30 percent of crops in the two counties have been harvested and hope is fading that they will come off the fields before winter arrives in earnest.
Brazeau County Reeve Bart Guyon said the crop disaster comes on the heels of other challenges.
“Most farmers have a second job and our second job in our part of the world is the oil patch, so it died in the last couple years. So that was kind of a financial wreck that hit everybody on the head.
“The season started out with a drought, so we were a little depressed about that. Then it started to rain so that was good, and then it started to snow, so we were depressed again. It kept raining and never stopped until it snowed.”
How much moisture was there?
“I lost count at 50 inches,” said Guyon, whose 300 acres of crop have yet to be harvested.
What looked like bumper yields in spring have now turned into an insulating layer that prevents sunshine from drying out the ground so farm equipment can do its job.
Guyon said the county sent letters about its disaster declaration to the provincial and federal governments. The province responded with information on crop insurance and other risk management programs.
“I said, ‘well you know, that’s kind of hindsight planning. Do you think we’d have the same government if we did hindsight planning?’
“I tried to be as nice as I could, but it’s easy to think after the fact. If we could see into the future, we’d all buy insurance.”
Brazeau County made its declaration Nov. 1 and nearby Lac Ste Anne County followed suit Nov. 2.
“Due to the inclement weather over the harvest season, we understand farmers’ profit margins are at extreme risk. We hope to raise awareness to the federal and provincial governments to get programs in place to address the seriousness of this matter by declaring a State of Agricultural Disaster,” said agricultural services board chair Ross Bohnet, in a news release.
Guyon said he welcomed additional support created by Lac Ste Anne’s declaration.
“The more people that come on board, the better off we are for helping to lobby. I have land right on their boundary. They’re sitting in the same situation. Nobody likes to cry wolf but we’re running out of time.”
Despite limited response from government, Guyon said he thinks assistance might be found for the region’s floundering farmers. Money was found to help those affected by Fort McMurray fires and southern Alberta floods in years past, he said, so maybe some can be found for farmers in Brazeau and Lac Ste. Anne.