County of Stettler declares agricultural disaster

ECA Review/File
Written by ECA Review

Pictured is moisture mapping data for the Province of Alberta, provided to the County of Stettler by the Agro-meteorology Applications and Modelling Unit, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. It’s a depressing sight for those working in or affected by the agriculture industry in Alberta. ECA Review/Submitted

The farming situation is hot, dry and depressing around the County of Stettler, with little to no relief in sight.

In response, the municipality declared an agricultural disaster at the regular council meeting June 14.

In essence, the disaster declaration opens up doors for producers seeking aid from higher levels of government, including the provincial and federal governments.

The County of Stettler stated in a June 15 press release the drought conditions have left area producers in a very tight spot, with the municipality observing “…empty dugouts and wetlands throughout our region.”

“We’re seeing exceptionally large numbers of livestock being dispersed at auction marts for this time of year, and producers are contacting us to report they are out of feed, cannot afford feed and looking ahead and realizing at this point that the probability of growing feed to support their operations is very, very slim,” stated the reeve in the June 15 press release.

“Agriculture is a very big part of what we do here in Stettler County and of what fuels our economy and lives. We are hearing the pleas from our farmers and producers and we need to take action,” he added.

Quinton Beaumont, manager of agricultural operations, also stated in the June 15 press release, “The Alberta government has announced some pasture programs in light of the lack of pasture due to the wildfire situation in our province. While that is not a consideration in our area, we are seeing producers putting herds out into their hay fields, with no other options at hand beyond herd dispersals.”

The county’s press release continued, “Relief for the agriculture industry due to drought has not been announced at this time, and council will use today’s declaration to reach out to government to advocate for assistance and support for an agriculture industry battling drought in Alberta.”

The heaviest day of rain the Stettler areas had recently was Wed., June 14; according to Environment Canada’s historical weather archive the Stettler area received 21.9 mm of rain.

The Weather Network precipitation forecast for Stettler from June 19 to 26 is a minimum of 14 mm of rain over the entire week.

County of Stettler Coun. Les Stulberg, who also farms near Byemoor which is about 70 km southeast of the Town of Stettler, said rains over the past week seem to have made a difference for crops in that area. Stulberg noted Byemoor/Endiang area seems to have received about 2.5 inches of rain over the past week.

He added that he’s heard some other areas, however, may have received as little as one-tenth an inch of rain while parts east of the County of Stettler have apparently received little to no rain at all.

“This rain definitely gives renewed optimism,” said Stulberg by phone June 20. While the producer noted rains will likely help certain crops, some that were planted earlier may be too stressed from lack of moisture.

Where concern really comes in is with the condition of pastures and livestock feed noted Stulberg. He said drought from the past couple of years combined with this spring’s dry conditions means producers who were already short of pasture for their livestock may have no choice but to downsize their herds.

Stulberg added he felt feed is not going to be abundant in 2023 as the lack of early moisture has had an effect on hay.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

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