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$2M grain dryer program launched to help farmers affected by terrible harvest

A grain dryer system on a farm. Undated handout photo.
A grain dryer system on a farm. Undated handout photo. Supplied by the Government of Alberta

From drought one year to not enough sun and too much rain the next — not to mention early snowfalls before fields are harvested — many Alberta farmers have a rough go of it in recent years.

Now, a new dryer grant program is available to help farmers cover half the cost of upgrading their grain handling systems, the provincial government announced Monday.

“Last harvest was one of the toughest for Alberta farmers,” provincial Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen said.

“Poor weather, trade irritants, rail strikes and a carbon tax have all hurt farmers through no fault of their own.”

READ MORE: Alberta farmers demanding action from government after ‘harvest from hell’

The $2-million Efficient Grain Dryer Program is funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and will help cover costs for eligible grain dryer improvements.

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Applicants will be able to choose equipment that makes sense for the size and volume of their agribusiness and improve energy efficiency within their operations, the province said.

The program will be retroactive to April 1, 2018, to accommodate almost 100 applicants who have been waiting since that time and for those who may not have known about the program and purchased eligible equipment in the last two years.

Click to play video 'Canadian farmers facing ‘harvest from hell’' Canadian farmers facing ‘harvest from hell’
Canadian farmers facing ‘harvest from hell’

Eligible expenses will be cost-shared, with 50 per cent funding from the grant and 50 per cent funding from the applicant, the province said.

“This new program will help farmers remain competitive and keep producing the best high-quality food in the world,” Dreeshen said.

READ MORE: Edmonton-area farmers unable to harvest crops due to heavy rainfall, unlikely to get second cut

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion commitment by federal, provincial and territorial governments that supports Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. The partnership is in effect until March 31, 2023.

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“I have a deep appreciation for the efforts being made by Canadian farmers to care for the land and environment. It is their legacy to their children,” federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau said.

“A sixth generation farmer recently told me, ‘If you don’t care for the land, you’re not in business.’ We all know how hard 2019 was for many farmers, and that weather is increasingly unpredictable.”

Based on the final Alberta Crop Report from Dec. 3, 2019, about 10 per cent of crops across Alberta were left in the fields to be harvested this spring. Up in the Peace River region, however, 32 per cent of the fields remained unharvested.

READ MORE: 90% of crops across Alberta harvested in ‘complicated’ and ‘halted’ season

The report said while the south and eastern areas of Alberta experienced a lack of rainfall, the opposite was true for much of the rest of the province. The fall brought cold temperatures and snow.

“Harvest operations started then halted numerous times and many areas were taking off tough and damp grain just to get it off the field,” the report said.

“As a result, increased time and input costs for drying grain, moving grain from bin to bin or piling it on the ground is common along the foothills and northern areas of the province.”

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Farmer David Reid checks on his wheat crop after a weekend of snowy weather near Cremona, Alta., Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Farmer David Reid checks on his wheat crop after a weekend of snowy weather near Cremona, Alta., Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh