On August 11, 2021 the Municipal District of Smoky River No. 130 declared an Agricultural Disaster for the region.
MD of Smoky River Declaration of Agricultural Disaster Aug 11 2021

We have received a response from the Provincial Minister of Agriculture & Forestry, the Honourable Devin Dreeshen which you may read below:

Mr. Robert Brochu
Reeve, MD of Smoky River

Dear Reeve Brochu:

Thank you for your August 12, 2021, correspondence advising me that the MD of Smoky River has declared a Municipal Agricultural Disaster. I certainly understand the stress and worry that producers are dealing with as they cope with the challenges of extreme heat and dry conditions.

Our agriculture sector is resilient, hard working, and innovative. In recent years, we have dealt with damaging hailstorms, floods, wet and snowy harvest conditions, low commodity prices, the impacts of COVID-19 on our farms and processing facilities, and now we are dealing with the results of extreme heat and severe drought conditions across Western Canada. I assure you that the Government of Alberta strongly supports the agriculture industry through a variety of programs and services, such as the suite of business risk management programs offered by Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), which provides financial support to producers facing adverse conditions. The suite includes AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, and AgriRecovery, and is designed to respond to each producer’s unique situation and offset the financial impact of weather-related challenges. These programs have helped producers who face production and revenue declines in response to a variety of conditions. To learn more about AFSC’s business risk management programs, I encourage you to visit the AFSC website, or contact AFSC toll-free at 1-877-899-2372.

As you are aware, this situation is critical and requires immediate measures to mitigate the effects of the drought to a range of impacted producers. On August 6, 2021, the Government of Alberta announced a $136 million commitment under the AgriRecovery framework and has asked the federal government to provide an additional $204 million for a total relief package of $340 million to help cover extraordinary costs producers are facing during the continued dry conditions. In response, on August 15, the federal government announced increased total AgriRecovery funding up to $500 million to address extraordinary costs faced by producers across Canada due to drought and wildfires. AgriRecovery responses are cost-shared 60-40 between the federal and provincial government and are designed to cover extraordinary costs not covered by existing business risk management programs, such as those incurred due to extreme drought conditions or other natural disasters.

The livestock feed assistance funding will also provide much needed financial support and immediate cash flow for Alberta’s livestock producers to purchase feed, water, and fencing. This AgriRecovery initiative will provide an immediate payment of $94 per head for eligible feed and water access costs for breeding females. Taking a receipt-based approach, producers may receive additional payments through the program to reflect extraordinary circumstances faced in some areas of the province. Application details will be announced soon and all program information will be available on the AFSC website.

Crop producers benefit from AgriInsurance, a program designed to help farmers experiencing production declines in annual or perennial crops caused by natural hazards. These include drought, flood, wind, frost, snow, excessive rain, excessive heat, and losses caused by uncontrollable disease, insects, or wildlife. AgriInsurance provides a comprehensive coverage for most commercially grown crops in Alberta, with catastrophic coverage available for rare and severe losses at no additional cost to the producer (100 per cent government paid coverage for rare and unforeseeable losses). AFSC clients with production-based insurance can choose to use their insured crop for alternate use, including pasturing, silaging, stacking, or baling after contacting AFSC to obtain approval to release the acres.

On July 22, 2021, Alberta doubled the low yield threshold to allow for additional cereal or pulse crops to be salvaged for livestock feed. This adjustment encourages producers to act swiftly to salvage crops for livestock feed rather than watch their fields deteriorate further, and risk harvesting nothing. Earlier this year, Agriculture and Forestry announced a 20 per cent reduction in insurance premiums, which provided a savings of $70 million to farmers and ranchers, and encouraged 349 new producers to enrol in AgriInsurance for the 2021 growing season.

Ranchers and cattle farmers are also encouraged to consider specific programs in the suite, including hay and pasture insurance. Hay insurance helps protect against yield loss, while pasture insurance coverage is based upon an indicator of pasture production loss, such as precipitation or satellite imagery.

AgriStability compensates for declines in margin as a result of lost production. This year, producers had until June 30, 2021, to enrol in AgriStability for the 2021 program year, allowing an additional 322 producers to enrol. Recent changes to AgriStability, such as removing the reference margin limit and increasing interim payments from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, have made the program more responsive to the needs of Alberta’s famers.

Ranchers and cattle farmers struggling to provide water for their livestock can access the Emergency Water Pumping Program. A producer or group of producers can rent pipe and pumping equipment to fill dugouts or other suitable catch basins from nearby water sources. The equipment and pipe is sent from dispatch locations to the pumping site, and technical assistance is provided for proper operation. Agricultural Water Specialists can also be contacted at 310-FARM (3276) for recommendations on constructing or maintaining a safe/secure water supply.

Additionally, the cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership Water Program provides assistance to primary producers who implement measures to secure water supplies and increase efficient use of current water supplies. More information on this program can be found on the Canadian Agricultural Partnership website or by phoning 310-FARM (3276).

Farmers who sell part of their breeding herd due to drought in a prescribed drought region are also eligible to defer a portion of sale proceeds to the following year under the federal Livestock Tax Deferral provision. It is my intention to ensure that all significantly affected Alberta municipalities are included in this designation.

With respect to declarations of an agricultural disaster by Alberta municipalities, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta has developed the Rural Municipalities of Alberta Guide for Declaring Municipal Agricultural Disasters in Alberta to support municipalities. This resource is a tool for monitoring crop conditions and identifying resources to support the decision-making process when considering whether to declare an agricultural disaster at the municipal level. The guide, developed in collaboration with Agriculture and Forestry and AFSC, is intended to promote a consistent mechanism for data collection and monitoring to support municipal decision-making and to guide the communication process when considering agricultural disaster declarations.

Finally, the Drought and Excess Moisture Advisory Group, co-chaired by Agriculture and Forestry and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, acts as a forum for the rapid sharing of information and resources between members during times of extreme moisture conditions, such as drought. Membership also includes Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, representatives from the livestock and crop sectors, AFSC, the Alberta Association of Agricultural Fieldmen, and Alberta Environment and Parks. This Advisory Group is currently discussing further options for assistance.

Thank you again for writing. Please be assured that I am working diligently to make sure the agriculture industry can continue to survive during these most challenging times and to provide the foundation for future growth in the sector. Agriculture built Alberta, and the Government of Alberta will ensure our agriculture sector has a level playing field so it can continue to feed Alberta families and families around the world.

Sincerely,

Honourable Devin Dreeshen
Minister, Agriculture and Forestry