Sturgeon County declares agricultural disaster

by Lucie Roy

Sturgeon County held a special Council Meeting on Monday to make a Declaration of Agricultural Disaster.The Request for Decision (RFD) included the Alberta Drought Risk Management Plan for Alberta, Alberta Agriculture Moisture Update as of July 7 and the Precipitation Accumulation as of July 15.

“We wanted to make this declaration to raise the concerns of the agricultural community to the province and to the federal government,” said Sturgeon County Mayor Tom Flynn. “So that if there are any programs they have that support, that our agricultural producers are recognized.”

crops1County residents having issues are asked to contact the Agricultural Services Department with their concerns.

“It (the drought) has a long-term impact on [the] economics of Alberta and the region,” Flynn said. “Grasshoppers have started chewing (fields) up, so you do not know if you have anything or not. That is the problem. When it is dry like this, it can look alright and then two weeks later it is all gone. Grasshoppers, birds, but it is more awareness than anything.”

Flynn said declaring the state of agricultural disaster has to do with drought and the lack of rain. “It is strange in a number of ways; first of all, it is spotty and not a general drought where everything is like the dirty thirties where everything just dried right up,” he said, adding the region has had some precipitation here and there over the summer. ”

The mayor said hay and pasture lands were most impacted with hay crops being 10 to 20 per cent of normal for this time of year.

” So what can happen is that some of them may have to sell some of their livestock,” Flynn said. “Some of the fields look good, but you do not know when you get into it. Some of the crops are shorter and heads are shorter, but they do not show nearly as much. Some looks ok; it depends on where you are in the County.”

Flynn also mentioned there are areas where the crops are turning white instead of golden. “It is burning, so it is not going to mature and fill as much as it should,” he said. “It looks like a good crop, but it is going to be disappointing. It has had so much heat it is going to lose its productivity.”

Flynn said farmers can insure for many things today, but some long-term effects cannot be insured. “The land gets depleted of moisture, hay land and size of the herd, what not, they take a long time to recover,” Flynn said.

County officials say Sturgeon County is experiencing a once in 50-year low soil moisture levels due to low record rainfall and hot, dry weather. The last time the County declared a state of agricultural disaster was June 25, 2009.

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