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How heavy June rainfall has impacted southern Alberta farming

‘Absolutely ideal’: wet weather helping many southern Alberta farmers after several dry years
WATCH ABOVE: Farmers like John McKee have struggled the last few years with below-average rainfall in the area. However, this June’s precipitation has been mostly beneficial. Eloise Therien has more.

To some in Lethbridge, the month of June may have seemed extra rainy. However, according to retired agronomist Ross McKenzie, that isn’t the case.

“So far we’ve actually been quite fortunate across southern Alberta,” McKenzie said. “There are very few areas that have had what I call too much precipitation.”

He adds this month’s rainfall is within normal amounts across the southern part of the province. Last year, some areas were well below the average, only receiving about 40 per cent of average rainfall.

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At this time of year, the rain is a welcome sight for many farmers.

“Going into the end of June, early July, this is where a lot of our crops are moving into peak water-use.”

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McKenzie also reminds Albertans of the magnitude of the agriculture industry, and how much money can be saved in irrigation costs if rain does the job instead.

“To be quite honest, if southern Alberta gets one inch of rain it probably could add up to $20 million in crop production.”

For longtime farmer John McKee, the past three years have been especially difficult due to a lack of rainfall.

His farm is comprised of 6,000 acres of wheat, canola, flax, and other crops. Only 1,100 of those acres are irrigated, meaning rain is a necessity.

“The impact has been tremendous on our farm,” McKee admitted. “The income has just dried right up to a trickle, so we do without a lot of things.”

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He points out that he is very hopeful for this year’s harvest, having started the growing season off with a good amount of soil moisture from snow events last fall, saying the current situation is “absolutely ideal.”

However, this year’s storms haven’t been entirely welcome, with hail damaging some crops. However, McKee says the situation could have been worse.

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“These hail storms have been very localized,” he said. “A few years ago they were 20-foot-wide swaths that would go for 60-80 miles.”

According to the Government of Alberta’s most recent crop report from June 23, around two-thirds of the crops in the southern Alberta area are rated as “good,” with 15 per cent in the “excellent” category.