Alberta farmers are off to a slow start after a wet, soggy spring.
Allam Farms Partnership farms 14,000 acres in Thorhild County and Strathcona County but chief operations officer Chris Allam said the business is behind where it normally is at this time of year.
“We’re usually done seeding by now. Right now, we’re approximately 30 to 40 per cent complete. Our problem is we’re up against the clock,” he said.
Allam said his machinery has been stuck in his fields close to 30 times because the fields are so wet.
“If we seed a bit late, it’s going to be hard to get it off in the back-end. We’ll see issues with quality and yield reductions,” he said.
“We’re working really long hours and trying to get it all in and get it done in a timely fashion. But Mother Nature didn’t cooperate earlier on – it is [okay] for the next few days – but we’ll see if the forecast changes.”
Allam said that roughly 10 per cent of his fields will not get seeded because of the water.
“It’s generally wet. We went from a wet fall with high moisture conditions, the ground was saturated. You get half an inch of rain in the spring and it’s like having two inches of rain almost because the ground is already wet. There’s nowhere for the water to go.”
He is budgeting for 15 per cent less income than last year because of the wet weather. However, Allam isn’t pushing the panic button yet – he hopes Mother Nature cooperates and does not send another rain event his way.
Tom Eppinga of Triple T Farms is having similar struggles – the third generation farmer still has one-third of his crop to put in the ground.
“The last snowfall that we got had a lot of water in it. It really set us back. Last fall was really wet so the water had nowhere to go,” he said.
“It’s been a real trying time.”
Eppinga said he normally does not seed on the May long weekend because he typically would already be done.
“If we can get it in- in the next week, it still could catch up. Mother Nature has a way of having a hot summer. It still could catch up,” he said.
The farmer said the conditions can be tough to cope with emotionally.
“This is really tough on farmers’ morale. The morale in the area here is pretty sad right now,” he said.
But he adds that he isn’t giving up.
“It’s just farming. We’ve had these ups and downs before. In order to enjoy the good times, you have to have the hard times.”
Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said he understands farmers’ frustrations and adds it is too early to say what impact this may have on 2018.
“This amount of unharvested acres is almost unprecedented. My understanding from Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) is that they haven’t seen this since 1967. It’s almost a one-off. We’re hoping for a good year…that we have some good, drying conditions,” he said.
“It’s a variable thing. Weather happens and you know what? Weather is going to happen again this year. We can hope for Mother Nature cooperating but we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
The Agriculture Financial Services Corporation has been carrying out pre- and post-harvest inspections. David Maddox, interim vice-president for operations and sales, said approximately 2,300 inspections have been done so far in May.
AFSC has extended seeding dates for the crop season, potentially buying farmers more time.
“If they’re not able to seed before that, they’re not eligible for grade coverage or quality coverage on their crop. But even if they seed after those dates, they still are covered for production loss on those,” Maddox said.
The final deadline for most seeded crops is June 20.