Over the last few months, we’ve watched Alberta counties and municipal districts declare local states of agriculture emergency. On Friday, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier approved the decision to declare Alberta in a state of agricultural disaster.
A warm winter coupled with intense drought and hail have been at the heart of many of individual counties’ decisions, and largely the reason for the provincial declaration. The Weather Network, which developed this map, says that parts of the province have “experienced 1-in-50 and 1-in-100 year drought conditions” so far this summer. It’s a similar story in Saskatchewan, where our easterly neighbours are suffering dry conditions that have lasted several weeks to months.
But what does it mean?
When a county or municipal district declares agricultural disaster, the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation pays out money to support farmers around the province. However, crop insurance isn’t enough this year, where the hardship has included not only drought, but also grasshopper infestations.
Producers are worrying they’ll have to reduce their herds of livestock, both due to the cost as well as lack of availability of food. Producers might not have enough hay to sustain their herds throughout the winter1.
So far, the Alberta government has cut rental fees to help farmers pump water to fill their dams and dugouts, and is actively working to identify more lands for public grazing2.
But the reaches of the drought go much farther than individual farmers.
Crop yields are expected to be about a quarter of the five-year average. Retail beef prices are expected to continue to climb into next year, and could cause Canada to start importing more beef. It’s the same story with pork.
As climate change increases the likelihood and prevalence of extreme weather, it will be increasingly important for Alberta to be prepared. One study has shown the importance of investing in irrigation, which could generate three dollars for every 1 dollar invested to fight extreme droughts.
What do you think about investing in irrigation? Or do you think there are other solutions for being prepared for drought in the future?
Mertz, E. (July 15, 2015). Several Alberta counties consider declaring states of agricultural disaster. Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/2109660/dry-weather-causes-state-of-agricultural-disaster-in-parkland-county/.
The Canadian Press. (August 22, 2015). Alberta declares agricultural losses from extreme weather a ‘disaster’. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/alberta-declares-agricultural-losses-from-extreme-weather-a-disaster-1.2529087.
Martins, D. (August 23, 2015). Agricultural disaster declared in Alberta. Here’s why. Retrieved from http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/disaster-declared-as-albertas-drought-continues/56076/.