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County declares agricultural disaster for region

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The County of Grande Prairie declared an agricultural disaster on Monday.

Though the declaration doesn’t necessarily commit financial assistance from the county, Coun. Corey Beck said it will “highlight the conditions and the issue that we have here in the county to the to the province and the feds, so that if they are thinking about programs, they know that we have an issue here.”

Local agricultural producers have now faced four straight years of challenging conditions and, combined with the drought conditions this season, circumstances are poor.

Only half of the typical amount of rainfall followed by an intense heatwave has left poor crop conditions, the county stated in a release on Monday.

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“The effects of a difficult growing season are felt across our communities,” said Leanne Beaupre, County of Grande Prairie reeve.

“Everybody who’s connected to agriculture has felt it this year,” said Beck.

The province doubled the low-yield threshold to allow for additional crops to be salvaged for livestock feed, said the province in a release last Thursday. The low-yield allowance is a part of the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) insurance program for times of extreme heat and drought.

Whether it will be enough for South Peace producers is debatable, according to Beck.

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“We’re going to see a liquidation of the cattle herd probably because the cost of hay is high for what is there,” said Beck.

“There’s a potential that some of the crops that would be written off could still be harvested for cow feed,” he said. “The problem is in the North we typically tend to have fewer (AFSC) inspectors so it takes longer.”

The province advises that producers talk with their AFSC branch office before they put a crop to an alternative use.

Since mid-June, crops have faced a significant deterioration, and current weather conditions are not improving, which will cause further deterioration, says a provincial Agriculture and Forestry release.

“It’s going to be difficult to harvest because the height is low,” said Beck. “Some of these recent rains

With the declaration, the county joins other municipalities across western Canada, hoping that the provincial and federal governments will support the industry and individual producers, said Beaupre.

The county said in the release that hay crops are yielding 20 to 30 per cent of the average at this point in the season.

Barley crops are in “very poor condition,” and canola and wheat currently are faring only slightly better.

All crop yields are expected to be significantly reduced.

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“I walked a couple of canola fields with some guys, and we’re looking at 10 and 12 bushels to the acre,” said Beck. He said producers are typically looking for 30 and more.

According to Alberta Farmer Express, crop insurance payouts in Alberta could top a billion dollars due to the drought.

Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) received about $600 million in premiums.

Alberta has received a verbal commitment from the federal government that a joint AgriRecovery program will be initiated to support producers.

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