Alta. commissions study grain drying

Alberta’s main crop commissions will soon launch a study to assess grain-drying costs, using its findings to potentially help farmers save dollars on energy consumption.

The three-year study is expected to begin this summer with experts monitoring participants’ grain-drying and conditioning systems.

“We want to provide farmers information on some of the best practices, as well as the fuel consumption of different systems,” said Shannon Sereda, government relations and policy manager with the Alberta wheat and barley commissions, which is part of Team Alberta.

“It will allow them to make an informed decision to reduce energy costs for grain drying.”

Team Alberta, which also includes the Alberta canola and pulse commissions, is spearheading the study and collaborating with 3D Energy and the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute for the project.

It received funding from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership program to undertake it.

Sereda said the organization pursued the study after determining farmers’ grain-drying costs have been increasing over the years, largely due to wetter than normal harvests.

As well, costs from the provincial carbon tax (which will soon be scrapped) made the practice more financially burdensome.

“We recognized the No. 1 cost for farmers from the carbon levy was on-farm fuel costs, largely attributed to grain drying and irrigation, in some cases,” she said.

In 2018, which was a wet year, Sereda said Team Alberta estimated that farmers throughout the province spent $35 to $45 million on grain drying.

Of that, she said, the carbon tax likely cost $2.5 to $5 million province-wide.

“Those are pretty significant numbers when you think of the opportunity costs on what we could be doing with those dollars, or how they could be directed to improve the viability and sustainability of farms,” she said.

Sereda said the study will also be used to advocate for better policy.

She said some existing programs haven’t been effective, so the data could be used by Team Alberta to lobby for better energy efficiency initiatives, as well as push for carbon tax exemptions on farm fuels.

“Further to that, when you’re looking at programming, there is potential for programs to improve or ways to help develop other programs to offset costs for farmers,” she said.

Even though there will no longer be a provincial carbon tax, Sereda said the study is still needed.

For one, the federal carbon tax still applies.

Two, she said it’s important to figure out how to reduce drying costs if farmers continue to store their grain longer and continue to face damp conditions in the fall.

“It’s still a substantial cost for farmers, irrespective of carbon tax. When farmers are required to store grain on the farm, they need to ensure storage quality.”

Sereda said Team Alberta is still looking for participants for the study, particularly farmers with heated air drying, in-bin natural drying and in-bin natural drying with supplemental heat.

Team Alberta hopes to monitor 30 to 40 drying systems by mid-June.

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