Stettler County coping with one of worst farm seasons in 60 years

A councillor voiced his concern that acreages near town are discouraging business in the County of Stettler at the regular meeting April 14. ECA Review/File
Written by Stu Salkeld

Stettler County council declared an agricultural disaster in the municipality after hearing a stark, sobering report on regional farming conditions at their regular meeting Aug. 11.

Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk submitted councillors a report from Quentin Beaumont, director of agricultural operations, that illustrated perfectly the summer of 2021: very hot and very dry for a very long period of time which equals a disaster for the farm community in Stettler County. 

One option councillors faced was to declare an agricultural disaster.

“A declaration of an agricultural emergency raises awareness of the impacts of the dry conditions affecting the area, but unfortunately does not affect eligibility for local farmers access to relief programs,” stated Beaumont’s report.

“…the situation being most dire in the southeast portion of the county and getting marginally better as you move northwest. 

“Most producers reported an intent to combine as the price of grains are holding well, but those producers are expecting only limited economic benefit due to reduced yields.

“Producers are reporting 20 to 40 per cent yield of normal hay crop harvests. Pastures are dry and bare, but at the time of this report there have been no herd dispersals or culling reported, but it won’t be long and producers will have to think about downsizing their herds.”

Brysiuk stated the report, which included a number of graphs showing the anemic rainfall this summer, was prepared with reams of data from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. 

“It’s a pretty stark picture to be honest,” said Brysiuk.

Brysiuk stated the data comes from three regions of the county and all are marginal or worse. He stated the data goes back 60 years and 2021 is one of the worst farming seasons Stettler County has seen in the last six decades.

Coun. Les Stulberg stated more attention needs to be drawn to the farming disaster; Stulberg stated producers in his division describes grain crops that are about half their expected yield, and that’s crops that are salvageable while many have already been written off.

Stulberg stated the livestock feed situation is even worse. He said producers are telling him they’re just about out of pasture and it’s only August. 

Because it’s so early, producers can’t start feeding livestock yet as they’ll be using feed intended for winter, “…So this is a serious predicament.” 

Stulberg also stated the intense heat wave must get credit for it’s role in the disaster.

Coun. Ernie Gendre noted the problem started last year as the second half of the summer was very dry which carried over to 2021. He said to find water he’s had to dig down at least five feet.

Councillors unanimously approved a motion to declare an agricultural disaster in Stettler County, to ask the provincial government to do the same for the province, to encourage the province to provide more help to producers and to send a letter to the federal agriculture ministry describing the situation facing farmers.

 

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.