Alberta county declares state of agricultural disaster due to poor harvest

Click to play video 'Alberta county declares state of agricultural disaster' Alberta county declares state of agricultural disaster
WATCH ABOVE: It's looking increasingly likely that many farmers across Alberta will be forced to wrap up their harvest operations next spring. Tom Vernon finds out what that means, especially for those in Brazeau – Nov 2, 2016

A dire harvest season due to wet weather in Alberta has led Brazeau County, southwest of Edmonton, to declare a state of agricultural disaster.

In a media release sent Wednesday morning, the county said council voted unanimously Tuesday to declare a state of agricultural disaster “due to the hardship that weather conditions, specifically excessive and persistent precipitation, have placed on local farmers.”

READ MORE: Bad harvest conditions hurting western Canadian farmers

“These extremely wet conditions over the past few months have resulted in very low crop yields across Brazeau County,” Reeve Bart Guyon said.

“We understand the hardship our agricultural sector is facing and will provide all means of support possible. By declaring a state of agricultural disaster, we hope to call attention to this extremely important issue. Farmers feed families, let’s support them.”

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READ MORE: Snow brings harvest to standstill in Saskatchewan, southern Alberta

About 75 per cent of unharvested cereals in Brazeau County remain standing, as does 84 per cent of unharvested spring wheat, 64 per cent of unharvested barley and 79 per cent of unharvested oats, according to the county.

Many growers across the Prairies, specifically in Alberta and Saskatchewan, have been forced to put harvest on hold because of recent rain and snow.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said the province takes the issue seriously and the government continues to find ways to support farm families.

“We have taken a proactive approach by providing Alberta producers with Business Risk Management programs through the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation,” Carlier said in a statement Wednesday.

“It’s been a real heartbreaker of the year. We understand the wet and snowy conditions are delaying harvest and having an impact on the quality of crops in many parts of Alberta.”

Watch below: A dire situation is cropping up for many farmers in rural Alberta. The cold, wet weather is making it impossible for some to harvest their fields. As Sarah Offin reports, that’s leaving valuable crops in the ground vulnerable to November snow.

Click to play video '30 per cent of Alberta’s crops still waiting to be harvested' 30 per cent of Alberta’s crops still waiting to be harvested
30 per cent of Alberta’s crops still waiting to be harvested – Nov 1, 2016

The topic was brought up in Question Period Wednesday by Mark Smith, Wildrose MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon.

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“This is serious,” Smith said. “The economic consequences could be dire and given that the energy industry is hurting so badly and that Mother Nature has just walloped our second-largest industry, agriculture, what types of programs can the minister provide to these farmers who are calling for disaster assistance?”

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said the government takes issues like this seriously and there are programs in place for farmers to receive assistance.

“The AgriInvest, AgriInsurance and AgrAbility programs are available to help mitigate the potential effects of these types of conditions when they occur,” Larivee said. “We continue to work with the agriculture industry to provide supports needed.”

Earlier this week, Farm Credit Canada said it was looking at ways to help western farmers faced with financial hardship due to wet conditions.

This could include the deferral of principle payments. FCC said other solutions to help farmers could include loan payment schedule amendments to help reduce financial pressures.

The company said it will work on a case-by-case basis with its customers and said those affected should contact their local FCC representative to discuss their situation and options.

READ MORE: FCC offering help to farmers facing financial hardship due to wet conditions

Brazeau County said it will notify provincial and federal government officials of the state of agricultural disaster and request a disaster recovery program be set up to address the issue.

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Brazeau County, which includes the Town of Drayton Valley, is located about 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

With files from Dave Giles, Global News.