County of Grande Prairie declares agricultural disaster

This is the second Alberta municipality to declare a disaster this year, given weather conditions have hampered harvest progress

Councillors with the County of Grande Prairie have declared an agricultural disaster in the region, marking what is considered to be a fourth straight year of difficult conditions.

Several factors, including wet conditions that delayed seeding last spring, excessive rainfall, and cool weather have slowed production and have led to poor crop quality, the county said in a news release Nov. 4.

“County Council is very aware of the hardships that our agricultural community is facing as a result of the weather conditions,” said Deputy Reeve Peter Harris, in the news release.

“By declaring an agricultural disaster, council wants to bring attention to the devastating conditions impacting crop and livestock producers and request more support for them,” he said.

Declaring an agricultural disaster allows the county to bring awareness to the issue, but does not allow them to access additional funds from the province. Earlier this year, Lac Ste. Anne County also declared an agricultural disaster.

Between 40 and 60 percent of crops remain in the county’s fields, the county said. Recent snowfall could make matters more difficult for harvest.

Regionally, crop harvest is trailing 25 percent behind average. About half of the major crops had been combined in November with 19 percent swathed and 31 percent still standing.

As well, the county added, hay crop quality is poor and in some cases in short supply, meaning higher costs for livestock producers. They will likely need to haul in feed from outside the region.

Harris stressed the importance of declaring this disaster.

“The farming sector is vital to the County of Grande Prairie,” he said. “The effects of this agricultural disaster are felt across our communities.”

The county is urging people to be mindful of their hunting and recreational activities given many crops are still in the field. They can be severely damaged by vehicle and snowmobile traffic.

The county said residents should obtain permission from landowners before travelling on what might appear to be an open field.

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