Some relief offered up for ag producers

By Stephanie Labbe
The Alberta government announced an update on growing conditions and government programs to assist growers, Aug. 6.
Drought conditions are currently a concern and that triggered Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry to make an updated announcement on the growing conditions across the province.
Carlier grew up on a farm in southwest Saskatchewan, with some of the driest agricultural land in Canada. Therefore, he feels he is quite familiar with dry conditions that Alberta is facing.
“I know how difficult and stressful times like these can be on members of our closeknit agricultural community,” emphasizes Carlier.
For about two months, Carlier has been reaching
out to farmers, municipal leaders and industry representatives to hear directly how the conditions have been impacting them.
“There’s no doubt that the early snow melt, dry spring and recent hail storms have taken a toll.
While significant rainfall in July has provided some relief to portions of the province, we know that areas of the province remain very dry and many producers are still struggling,” adds Carlier.
These dry conditions across the province have activated agricultural risk management programs that were designed to help producers through difficult times such as these.
“Crop insurance continues to be an important … first line of defense. Approximately $70 million in claims have already been processed and paid out to the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) this year,” adds Carlier.
The government is working closely with AFSC to ensure they have the resources in place to respond to farmers quickly.
Based on the current growing conditions, Carlier says they predict to pay $700-$900 million in direct support to farmers through the insurance programs by the time the growing season is over.
Producers are also carrying a collective balance of $541 million through the agri-invest program that can be accessed at any time for any reason.
“This program allows farmers to invest up to $15,000 per year to receive matching funds from the provincial and federal governments,” adds Carlier.
Carlier announced some program adjustments to help producers, particularly cattle farmers through this difficult time. He says they’ve been working with the federal government to ensure livestock producers in affected communities qualify for tax deferrals.
Year-to-date cattle auction volumes are still below last year at this time and also below the three-year average. Total auction volumes are at about eight and a half per cent below 2014 and about three and a half per cent below the three-year average.
As well, Carlier says they’re cutting fees in half
to use the Alberta Agricultures emergency water pumping program. This program helps farmers pump water from lakes, rivers and other water resources to provide water for their livestock and for other uses. The fee reduction will apply to anyone who uses the program in the 2015-16 fiscal year and will be retroactive to April 1.
The third area in which Carlier has been working
is with Environment Minister Shannon Phillips to identify hay and grazing opportunities on vacant and under-utilized Crown lands.
Environment and parks are considering and approving applications for access to appropriate Crown lands and authorizing sub leases in cases where the leaseholder is not fully utilizing land.
“This will help producers who are struggling with inadequate pastures and high hay prices.”
The three-targeted measures will complement programs already in place.
Carlier says they will continue to monitor crop conditions on an ongoing basis and will continue to work to identify additional ways to help farmers.
Approximately 80 per cent of Alberta farmers will be impacted by the dry weather conditions this summer.
Since April 1 of this year, portions of the central, southern and the northern part of the Peace region of the province have been the driest.
The province is going to have to be frost-free into September for the late-seeded or late-germinated crops to benefit from the rainfall in July.
There are four key programs in place to help Alberta farmers in times such as these.
The first program is crop insurance. Crop insurance provides protection against losses caused by designated parcels for almost all crops, hay and pastures grown in the province.
Agri-stability is the second program, which provides producers who suffer significant declines in their growth farm margins for their entire farm operations. Producers pay $3.15 per $1,000 of coverage fees to participate.
These fees are used to partially offset the cost of claims. Most recently, there are 16,300 producers participating in the program, which provides producers with roughly $2 billion in coverage.
The third program is Agri-invest, which is a matching deposit-based program that’s administered by the government of Canada and assisted by AFSC. Under this program, a producer is able to deposit up
to one per cent of his allowable net fails of up to a maximum of $15,000 per year. This is matched 60 per cent by the Government of Alberta.
On July 19 of this year, Alberta producers had
$541 million available in their accounts that they can access at any time for any reason.
The fourth program is the AFSC lending program.
It offers farm, commercial value-added and agribusiness loans.
For more information on the programs visit