Stettler County declares region an agricultural disaster area

‘These guys need help.’: Coun. James Nibourg

Stettler County declared the county an agricultural disaster area after seasonal dry conditions and bad weather have affected crops and delayed harvest. This not only affects grain farmers but also cattle producers.

Coun. James Nibourg brought the issue to council during their regular meeting Oct. 10.

Coun. Nibourg said he had numerous ratepayers call him asking why Stettler County isn’t on Alberta Agriculture’s prescribed list of drought and flood regions. Being on the list allows farmers, through the Federal Livestock Tax Deferral program, to sell part of their breeding herd due to drought or flooding and defer a portion of the money to the next year.

“We did get some moisture in certain spots,” said Coun. Nibourg, adding that many farmers didn’t get any.

In addition, many farmers can’t get their crops off the field because they are now under snow.

“Every day the crops are out there they are losing grade,” said Coun. Nibourg.

The Alberta Agriculture and Forestry/Agriculture Financial Services Corporation Crop Reporting Survey as of Oct. 2 indicates 43 per cent of crops have been combined in the Central Region. The five-year average at this same time, in the same area, is 79 per cent.

“As we sit here today, many farmer’s crops remain on the field because of unseasonable weather conditions. The snow and moisture have made it difficult to get into the fields. Certain crops will diminish in value as these crops remain in the fields,” said Stettler County Reeve Larry Clarke.

This affects cattle producers relying on grazing land for their herds after crops are taken off. Coun. Nibourg said currently hay is selling for 11 cents a pound, whereas last year it went for about four and a half cents a pound.

“That’s insane,” said Coun. Nibourg.

In fact, some farmers have asked the county if they can graze their cattle in county ditches.

“We haven’t had a request to graze in our ditches before. That shows we are having real issues out there. In the eight years I’ve been on council I’ve never had that before.

Stettler County passed a Ditch Grazing Policy at its Oct. 10 meeting to deal with this issue.

“Hopefully we won’t need it another year,” said Stettler County Chief Administrative Officer, Yvette Cassidy.

The County of Stettler’s Agricultural Services Board disagreed earlier in September, with a list of Prescribed Regions identified to qualify for the 2018 Livestock Tax Deferral Program with Alberta Agriculture, which indicated Stettler County did not make the cut as a drought or flood affected region. Statistics indicate Stettler County has received low to average precipitation, but locally we are aware of areas that as of Sept. 6 when the map was released, had not received any moisture.

Neighbouring Camrose County, Lacombe County and Ponoka County are on the prescribed list of drought and flood regions. Alberta Agriculture, however, doesn’t list Stettler County and Coun. Nibourg said by declaring the county an agricultural disaster he hopes this will prompt the federal and provincial governments to kick in programs for the area. This could help Stettler producers gain access to the Federal Livestock Tax Deferral program and drought disaster programs.

Coun. Nibourg said he disagrees with the statistics Alberta Agriculture is using to list counties and wants to see Stettler County listed.

“Their stats are saying we have low to average precipitation in the county is some areas and I would agree with that but some areas had no precipitation at all or some had more than average. It is so hit and miss.

“I’m trying to bring attention to the situation,” said Coun. Nibourg.

The situation is causing immense strain on farmers’ emotional health.

“These guys are under a lot of stress and if we as a county can help mitigate it then we should.”

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