County of Stettler hears no relief from drought in sight

ECA Review/File
Written by Stu Salkeld

The County of Stettler Agriculture Services Board (ASB) heard the drought conditions devastating producers’ operations this summer is blistering ahead with no relief in sight. The report was made at the June 28 regular meeting of the ASB.

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

Manager of Agriculture Operations Quentin Beaumont provided board members with a drought update which follows the County of Stettler’s declaration of an agricultural disaster a few weeks ago due to lack of moisture.

“June 14, 2023 Stettler County council passed a motion to declare an agriculture disaster because of dry conditions,” stated Beaumont in his report to the board. “Since then, the county has received moisture, some locations more than others.

“Moisture amounts vary from as little as 7 mm (three-tenths of an inch) of rain to 62 mm (2.5 inches) of rain since June 14.

“As of the time of this report, the moisture received has helped relieve some stress for canola and pulse crops, even relieved some barley fields for a brief time.
“Commodities like wheat, pastures, and haylands are not seeing relief yet.

“The haylands may be too late to recover and produce any forage worth harvesting for the 2023-2024 winter feeding season.

“Pastures have greened up some, but are not producing more forages as of yet, but it is also too early to tell if the small amounts of moisture have done any good yet.”

He showed several maps courtesy of the Government of Alberta illustrating recent moisture levels, and for the central and south parts of the province, they showed a lot of orange and red with very little blue or green.

Beaumont noted the County of Stettler’s declaration was also forwarded to several important provincial government departments such as the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC).

During discussion Beaumont stated the amount of moisture varies greatly across the County of Stettler, ranging from very little to amounts difficult to believe. He said the average across the municipality appears to be about nine-tenths of an inch.

He noted three rural municipalities have declared agricultural disasters, including Stettler, Paintearth and Vulcan.

Reeve Larry Clarke asked his peers if the County of Stettler should send letters to the Minister of Agriculture Devin Dreeshen and local MLA Nate Horner pointing out why the disaster declaration was made and that those conditions are wreaking havoc.

Board members passed a resolution to send letters to those provincial government representatives.

Beaumont stated his department will continue logging data on crops, pasture, and haylands across the county to keep board members and public informed of farming conditions.
“Administration will continue to monitor the conditions around the county throughout the growing season and into the winter months to measure precipitation including snowpack for next year,” added Beaumont’s report.

As board members discussed the drought situation, board member James Nibourg asked what a normal or average moisture level would be for this time of year in the County of Stettler.

Beaumont stated he didn’t have the exact numbers on hand but estimated perhaps 120 mm to 140 mm, even 80 mm to 100 mm, would be ideal to acceptable.

The maps on display illustrated County of Stettler producers are coping with substantially less than that right now.

Board members accepted the drought update as 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.