Paintearth county’s farmers persevere through challenging drought

ECA Review/J.Campbell
Written by ECA Review

Hayfields like this one near Halkirk, Alta. are burning up as temperatures sore again this week to the 30 degrees Celsius. Usually by the end of July haying season is pretty much completed but with high temperatures early in May and lack of rain, farmers have waited as long as possible to try and get as much as they can for their winter feed. ECA Review/J.Campbell

The farming community in the County of Paintearth is facing an unprecedented crisis as the region grapples with a severe drought that has led to substantial crop damage and threatened the livelihoods of local producers.

Reeve Stan Schulmeister has provided a grim assessment of the situation, highlighting the extent of the damage and the challenges faced by farmers in the area.

“We’ve seen some improvement with the recent rain, but a lot of the crop damage has been substantial, and there won’t be a complete recovery,” stated Schulmeister.

“Wheat crops have been particularly impacted, with very poor yields leading the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) to write off many crops. This has left many farmers struggling to find feed for their cattle, resorting to processing green crops as an alternative.”

The drought situation has gained widespread attention, with the declaration of an agricultural disaster by Paintearth county during a meeting held on June 20, 2023. This declaration has spurred a response from Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC). It has encouraged other counties to sign up for disaster programs to assist affected producers.
The quick release of funds by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has somewhat alleviated the financial burden farmers face in the region.

Schulmeister also raised concerns about the escalating grasshopper infestation, especially in parts of the county to the south and southeast. He warned that without substantial moisture going into the fall, the grasshoppers could become mobile and pose a significant threat to crops, recalling the extensive damage caused by grasshoppers in previous years.

The challenges the drought poses are not limited to the current farming season. Schulmeister acknowledged that farming has become extremely expensive for producers, making it hard to insure everything. Furthermore, the cost of hay has soared due to the drought’s widespread impact, with good-quality hay available only in distant regions like Manitoba, resulting in high freight costs.

“We hope for some recognition and support from all levels of government,” Schulmeister urged. “Freight assistance could go a long way in helping us keep our cow herd intact in Alberta and preserving our local economy.”

Despite the challenges, the farming community remains resilient. Schulmeister expressed gratitude for the community’s understanding of the importance of agriculture and stressed the need for regional cooperation during these trying times.

Schulmeister spoke about this year’s crop and compares it to 2002 when crops were destroyed by drought and grasshoppers. He explained that this year started out very similar to 2002 if not a bit worse.

As the county braces for the future, optimism remains in the air, with the recent rainfall providing some relief. However, the long-term implications of the drought on the agricultural sector remain uncertain.

Farmers in Paintearth county are no strangers to dry conditions. Still, the severity and persistence of this drought have raised concerns about the viability of farming in the region.

For now, the farmers in Paintearth will continue to persevere, hoping to make the best of a challenging situation.

“We’ll deal with it,” said Schulmeister. “We’ve been through tough times before, and we’ll continue doing what we do until we retire or are forced out.”

Jessica Campbell
ECA Review

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