At their regular council meeting July 12 the County of Stettler’s assessment of the agriculture disaster facing not just the municipality but the province in general was depressing if not heartbreaking, as the topics of culling herds, shutting down operations, and writing off crops were all mentioned.
Reeve Larry Clarke asked the subject of “importing feed” be added to the meeting agenda, and once discussion started the reeve noted he’d been contacted by a feed supplier in Manitoba asking for Clarke’s opinion on how to ship supplies at a reasonable cost to Alberta.
According to Clarke this feed producer had about 500,000 tonnes.
Clarke suggested the County of Stettler talk to the Alberta government about this subject, as drought-driven scarcity of feed for livestock is at a serious level.
He pointed out both the County of Stettler and County of Paintearth are definitely in the same predicament and a quick perusal of various online buy and sell sites shows producers all over Alberta are worried about livestock feed.
Clarke also pointed out feed coming in from other provinces should be checked out for things like pests and weeds.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy noted the Special Areas Board, which represents regions in east central Alberta, also recently declared an agricultural disaster and is searching for aid provincially and federally.
Cassidy stated the County of Stettler could follow Special Areas’ lead and while doing so perhaps point out opportunities such as the Manitoba feed offer.
County of Stettler Manager of Agriculture Services Quentin Beaumont stated that so far Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), a government agency that offers financial services to producers, is not currently looking at any agri-stability programs such as those in 2021.
Apparently, AFSC has suggested producers facing feed shortages cut poor crops and use them as feed. Beaumont added he’d also received a phone call from a feed supplier in Manitoba.
Coun. James Nibourg stated he felt there was virtually nothing the County of Stettler could do about pests or weeds coming into Alberta in feed shipments, noting he’s bought feed right in Alberta that had those problems.
Beaumont mentioned that local producers could take advantage of currently high livestock prices to scale back their herds or to encourage a higher cull rate. During discussion councillors stated scaling back a herd which in some cases took decades to build could drive some people out of business.
Coun. Dave Grover noted that about 20 years ago during the severe feed shortage, the American government subsidized trucking costs for its farmers, an unfair move as Canadian producers enjoyed no such benefit.
Councillors unanimously passed a resolution that the County of Stettler contact the provincial government to request a feed transportation assistance program and to send concerns about the looming feed shortage to AFSC.
Readers should note the drought of 2023 is only one part of the current agricultural problem; last year’s drought carried over into this spring and low or random moisture levels have resulted in feeble pastures.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter