Some Alberta farmers bracing for worst harvest in 18 years: ‘The damage is done’

Click to play video: 'Alberta farmer bracing for worst harvest in 18 years'
Alberta farmer bracing for worst harvest in 18 years
Many farmers in Alberta are facing another difficult harvest: hail has battered crops and fields across the province look more like lakes than farm land. As Kendra Slugoski explains, some farmers are actually praying for hail because insurance money is their only hope now. – Jul 14, 2020

Farmers in parts of Alberta say their crops are under water and are bracing for a devastating harvest. It has been so wet, many fields look more like lakes.

John Guelly, a farmer in Westlock County, said even if his wheat and canola crops do dry out — it’s too late.

“The damage is done,” Guelly said.

“There’s no turning back for this year unless you’ve got a time machine or magic fairy dust.”

Guelly’s wheat crop would normally be waist high by mid-July, now he said parts are dead or spindly — like something that’s been over-watered in a flower pot.

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It’s so bad, Guelly said his only hope of making any money this year is by cashing in on crop insurance.

He is hoping for hail.

“We’ve got good hail insurance and that would be economically the best thing for me right now.”
John Guelly’s crops in Westlock county have taken a beating from the ongoing rain. John Guelly

Guelly, who is also chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, said unfortunately the hail that has landed on crops were ones that were actually doing well.

Just east of Innisfail, farmers watched helpless as a massive hail storm tore through the area on Sunday, July 12.

Dwayne and Brenda Bennett said it took just 25 minutes for their bright yellow canola crop to be chopped down and shredded by the violent storm.

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“A massive wind and over six inches of hail,” Dwayne Bennett said.

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Dwayne Bennett’s canola field before and after the hail ripped through Innisfail on Sunday, July 12, 2020. Dwayne Bennett

The Bennett’s said almost 90 per cent of their crops are not salvageable.

His wife Brenda added, “The crop, it’s insured, so it will be all right. Our biggest concern is the pasture and feed for the cows.”

Bennett said the pasture was up to her waist but is now only as tall as the grass. The wheat crop was also strong and healthy until the hail beat it down.

Click to play video: 'Central Alberta crops damaged by violent storm'
Central Alberta crops damaged by violent storm
Crops in Thorhild county look more like lakes. Farmer Chris Allam says it’s going to be another difficult harvest. Supplied

Northeast of Edmonton near Redwater and in Thorhild County, crops are also under water.

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“It’s pretty depressing,” said Chris Allam, a farmer with 15,000 acres.

Allam estimated 25 to 35 per cent of his crops have flooded out and has estimated this will be the worst harvest he’s seen in 18 years.

“The chances of us making money are slim to none this year,” Allam added.

“It’s going to be another year where we’re spending a lot of money trying to get the crop off.”

Allam said in a drought year he wouldn’t have much crop to deal with — but this harvest, crops that aren’t under water will need to be dried out.

“It’s going to be an expensive harvest.”

This year’s poor conditions comes after a difficult growing season in 2019.

Last year was complicated by a number of different weather conditions in Alberta, including too much moisture in some areas and not enough rain in others.

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Some regions saw cold temperatures in the fall and snow and other excess moisture.

Guelly said his harvest this year will look more like recovery, in the hopes of being able to reseed in the spring.

“The definition of a farmer is an eternal optimist and major risk taker. We don’t have to go to Vegas.”

He added Mother Nature’s gamble could be devastating to new farmers who don’t have established farms.

“They can’t weather the storm.”

Alberta Agriculture is expected to release an updated crop report on Friday.

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