Special Areas farmers battle drought, grasshoppers and crop failures

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Written by ECA Review

Special Areas declared an agricultural disaster on July 12 for Special Areas No. 2, 3 and 4 due to prolonged drought conditions.

According to information prepared by the Special Areas agricultural fieldmen, this year’s drought conditions have worsened due to the increased amount of grasshoppers they are seeing.

According to annual survey data from the Special Areas agricultural fieldmen, grasshopper populations have been growing. The 2023 grasshopper development is ahead of normal staging, meaning this will be an excellent year for egg-laying.

Grasshopper control has proven to be a daunting challenge. While some methods, like early seeding and crop rotations, can offer limited relief, the sheer scale of the problem renders these solutions insufficient. The region’s sensitive soils make tillage an ineffective tool for control, further complicating the situation.

Over the last two years, the province’s agricultural heartland has been tormented by scant runoffs, scorching temperatures soaring above 40°C in 2021, and below-average rainfall, meaning farmers were already struggling.

“Dry conditions are not new to the Special Areas, but ongoing moisture deficiencies and hot temperatures have devastated crops and pasture throughout the region. Producers are struggling to find enough grass, water, and feed for their cattle. Farmers are facing widespread crop failures.

Significant grasshopper infestations are making a very difficult situation worse in many parts of the Special Areas,” said Chair of the Special Areas Jordon Christianson in a release to the public on July 12.

“Declaring an agricultural disaster is one way we can raise awareness of how serious this problem is with the province and with the federal government.”

This year has also impacted pastures and perennial forages, which according to the Special Areas agricultural fieldmen, could take years to recover from their current state even with improved conditions.

These reasons are causing livestock farmers in numerous parts of the province to sell some of their animals or significantly lower the number of animals they keep in their fields.

Special Areas is working to support producers in different ways. By declaring the agricultural disaster, they are raising awareness and asking for help from the government and Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC). They reduced over 50 per cent in the fees for renting water pumping equipment, which has been applied retroactively to Jan. 1.
The Special Areas agricultural fieldmen are stressing the importance of the agricultural crisis; however, they have also mentioned the emotional toll on farmers can have a lasting effect that may be overlooked.

The Agricultural Service Boards (ASBs) and the Chinook Applied Research Association are actively engaged in the field, connecting producers with vital extension information and resources to help them navigate these challenging circumstances.

They offer rental equipment for installing remote livestock water systems and grasshopper bran applicators if necessary. Furthermore, the Special Areas website and social media platforms are constantly updated with resources ranging from insurance updates and funding opportunities to mental health support.

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