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‘It’s heart-wrenching’: Drought conditions devastate food producers from B.C. to Ontario

Cattle producer Tyler Fulton has been a farmer for 14 years. Before that, his parents raised cows on the same land near Birtle, Man. This year’s drought, he says, is the worst he has ever seen.

“What’s really extraordinary is the degree to which this is so widespread — the fact that all of the Prairies is well below normal moisture levels and we are at a massive moisture deficit,” Fulton said.

“It’s unlike anything that I’ve seen before or for that matter, that my parents have.”

READ MORE: Crops in Saskatchewan ‘extremely stressed’ due to heat, lack of moisture

In Manitoba’s Interlake region between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, the drought is so bad that some cattle producers have been forced to sell their livestock. A photo supplied to Global News by the Canadian Cattleman’s Association shows cattle on what should be green, grazing pasture near Ashern, Man. The drought conditions have left the pasture dry, brown, and dead.

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“Guys (there) were forced to sell all of their cows because they don’t have any feed,” Fulton said. “That means they have no means to produce animals next year and into future years. It’s heart-wrenching circumstances. These are operations that have been in the family for three and four generations and they’re being forced to make decisions that really undermine the viability of their farm.”

A summer of hot, dry temperatures with little rain has devastated food producers from interior British Columbia to eastern Ontario.

READ MORE: Prairie farmers pray for rain as drought, grasshoppers ravage crops and pastures

“This is considerably worse than what we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Erin Gowrluk, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada. “The drought conditions have increased pest pressures and we see challenges now across the Prairies with grasshoppers. Farmers are having to make difficult choices to either invest in pest control or cut their losses.”

Lac Ste. Anne County in Northern Alberta and Vulcan County in the southern part of the province declared a state of Agricultural disaster this week. Vulcan Country Reeve Jason Schneider, who is also a farmer, says most of the region’s crop has been lost.

“This (is) widespread. I haven’t seen many nice crops in southern Alberta, which is surprising. Typically, there is going to be some pockets that have seen good rain but there is really nothing this year,” Schneider said.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan government announces aid for livestock producers struggling with drought

Food producers are used to battling the elements in Canada.

According to Jim Warren, a social studies professor at the University of Regina who studies drought management on the Canadian Prairies, Canada has seen at least two widespread droughts in the last 40 years.

“2000 into 2001 was a very bad year for drought and there were also significant droughts in the late 1980s; 1988 was a bad year,” Warren said.

“Climate change projections are that drought could become more severe, more intense and more frequent. We’re in a dry cycle. One would expect conditions have been exacerbated due to climate change, but really it’s hard to tease out how much.”

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