Athabasca County declares agriculture emergency

Athabasca, Alberta – Dry conditions in the agricultural sector were officially acknowledged by Athabasca County Council this week after it declared a state of agriculture emergency.

The decision was made on July 30, 2015 at the Athabasca County Regular Council Meeting after councillors considered a recommendation to do so from the municipality’s Agriculture Services Board.

“Agriculture remains an important part of the economy in our municipality and producers have been hit by unusually dry conditions this year,” said Doris Splane, Reeve of Athabasca County.

“We want to support our producers where we can in these types of situations. By declaring an agriculture emergency it sends a signal to provincial and federal levels of government to provide assistance.”

Council reviewed a report that showed prolonged dry conditions in the spring and early summer that reduced growth in hay and pastureland. Although crop conditions are slightly better, the dry weather also hampered a good start for many grain and oilseed crops in the municipality. More recently grasshoppers have also had a negative effect.

Athabasca County will be drafting letters to both the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to make them aware of the declaration.

What are the conditions like in Athabasca County?

  • Hay, pastureland and crops have all been affected by reduced rainfall this year.
  • Generally pasture and hay land has been the hardest hit in the municipality. Some producers report 25 per cent of their regular hay production while others report about 50 per cent.
  • Depending on the location in the County, grain and oilseed crops have also been hit by the drought. Crops are shorter and the size and number of kernels/seeds has been hampered by rains that didn’t come in a timely fashion.
  • Athabasca County is a large municipality so moisture conditions vary from division to division. While some areas received timely showers that helped crop conditions, others did not. A small segment of the crops are doing well but the majority have been adversely affected.
  • According to the Alberta Agriculture and Foresty department, between April 1 and July 9 (exactly 100 days) a period of extremely dry weather hit the province’s agricultural areas. During this time most areas experienced less than 50 per cent of the regular rainfall they normally receive.
  • July 10th marked a change in weather conditions. Some areas of the province received 50 mm of rain in just a few short days. Normals for the month of July show the entire month receiving from 50mm to 100mm of precipitation.
  • Although these late rains did help pasture and hay fields recover slightly, the presence of grasshoppers compounded the problem. The pests are now eating any new growth on pastureland and are also damaging area crops.

Producers will apply directly to any provincial or federal aid programs that result from the declaration of an Agricultural State of Emergency. Athabasca County will post links on its website to these programs once they are announced.