CALGARY – The province declared an agricultural disaster Friday due to the economic losses and hardship resulting from extreme weather conditions in recent weeks.
Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier quietly approved the decision on Friday.
Carlier had previously said the drought would mean a dismal year for some farmers, but wasn’t ready to declare a province-wide state of emergency as recently as Aug. 6.
“It’s clear that many producers are facing challenges because of the dry conditions this year, and that’s why we are finding common sense ways to help out farmers during these difficult times,” Carlier said during a media conference at the Alberta Legislature in early August.
READ MORE: ‘What do I do with my cattle?’ – Alberta farmers struggle with near drought
Agriculture department spokesman Renato Gandia said in an email Friday that declaring a disaster allows the province’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation to access more funds for insurance compensation. Gandia said the dry weather and hail in 2015 has resulted in a “significant increase” in the number of claims across the province.
Many Alberta counties and municipal districts have already declared local states of agricultural emergency due to heat and drought and are seeking government assistance.
READ MORE: Two more Alberta counties declare states of agricultural disaster
After estimations that crop yields this year could be 25 to 30 per cent below the five-year average, the government cut rental fees in half for a program that helps farmers pump water to fill their dams and dugouts.
The province was also working with municipalities to identify additional public lands for grazing to help producers feed their livestock.
Earlier this summer, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative agriculture critic Wayne Drysdale said crop insurance isn’t enough and that the provincial NDP government should establish a disaster recovery program to address this year’s drought and grasshopper infestations.
With files from The Canadian Press