County of Stettler ag board hears provincial drought aid is on its way

Written by Stu Salkeld

The County of Stettler’s Agriculture Service Board (ASB) heard a report that provincial government aid for drought-stricken producers appears to be on its way. The report was discussed at the Sept. 28 regular ASB meeting.

The ASB is comprised of members of county council and is chaired by Coun. Dave Grover.

During the board’s request for information part of the agenda, Reeve Larry Clarke gave an update on drought aid from the provincial or federal levels of government.

Clarke stated he spoke with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) the morning of Sept. 28 and the reeve got the impression there is a drought aid package coming up judging by the AFSC comments.

Clarke stated he didn’t know any other details but he also has a call into Finance Minister and MLA Nate Horner’s office for more information.

Clarke stated it sounds like there’s going to be more help for farmers but it’s not going to be as widespread as producers saw in 2002.

The reeve was likely referring to mad cow disease aid packages. Clarke stated that judging by what he was told it seems the upcoming aid package will be based more on helping with farmers’ extra expenses such as higher feed prices.

Manager of Agriculture Operations Quentin Beaumont stated that makes sense as drought conditions are not as widespread.

Clarke agreed, noting he’d recently travelled in northern parts of the province which obviously had much more moisture than other parts of Alberta because hay appeared to be in good supply. However, he noted he saw no black hay and noticed no frost effects on trees.

Coun. Ernie Gendre asked how the drought had spread over provincial, Beaumont answered parts of Saskatchewan west of Saskatoon have similar drought conditions as parts of Alberta.

Board members accepted Clarke’s report as information.

Federal government response
Councillors discussed a letter from Battle River-Crowfoot MP Damien Kurek, received in response to a County of Stettler letter some weeks ago requesting information on drought aid for producers.

“As your MP and a grain farmer in the region I understand the gravity of this situation and I am committed to advocating for providing the necessary support to help our communities and local producers,” stated Kurek’s letter dated Aug. 31.

“I have spoken with MLA Nate Horner and the provincial Agriculture Minister RJ Sigurdson, both of which understand this situation well and have been working on it from the beginning, pushing for financial relief from the federal government…(the Official Opposition’s) demands for help have been ignored until recently.”

Kurek noted on Aug. 21 the federal government announced a livestock tax deferral along with AgriRecovery and AgriStability programs. Kurek noted the AgriInsurance program may be tweaked for one year to make drought-damaged crops available for feed.

Beaumont stated it seems Kurek has been active in working for farmers in his riding.

“Basically he’s on board, understands the situation,” said Beaumont.

Councillors passed a resolution allowing Kurek to send the County of Stettler’s original letter to other federal government departments.

Drought update
Beaumont provided board members a verbal update on the drought situation facing Alberta farmers.

He noted 20 municipalities have declared an agricultural emergency, most in southern Alberta but some in central and the Peace regions.

He suspected there won’t be any more declarations until possibly springtime as the dormant season approaches.

Beaumont pointed out not every part of the province suffered from drought this year; there were places in northern Alberta like Tofield that received 17 to 18 inches of rain.

Board members accepted Beaumont’s update for information.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.