To say it’s been a tough year for producers in southwestern Alberta might be considered a huge understatement, but it has.
A lack of measurable rain since spring and now a surge in the grasshopper population is hitting farmers twice as hard.
On Aug. 8, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek made the rare move of declaring an agricultural disaster.
This follows a recommendation by its agricultural fieldman and service board, and was rubber-stamped at a special council meeting, also held on the same day.
“Municipal declarations do not automatically trigger access to increased funding programs, provincially or federally,” noted the MD in a statement posted on its website. “It’s rather intended to bring attention to other levels of government on where support is needed for producers.”
To date, the Alberta government has not made any provincewide designation.
Reeve Rick Lemire, a cattle producer himself, doesn’t recall such a declaration being made in recent memory.
“About a month ago, it was brought up. Should we be looking or monitoring this? Since that time, we, as a council, have had phone calls from producers saying it’s time — we’re in sad shape here,” said Lemire. “So we called the special meeting and went over the facts that our ag fieldman provided us.”
Some feedback included situations of stock being sold with a dwindling grass supply and the need and cost to have water hauled in. Lemire knows all too well about those same hurdles, with two of his three dugouts completely dry.
Add to that, the latest wrinkle — grasshoppers.
“What little crop they might have had to cut for feed is being destroyed and all of that within the last month. Grasshoppers come in cycles and this is (their) year,” Lemire continued.
“And, next year could be worse because they’ve come in such large numbers. I know of at least a few producers in the MD that have sprayed their crops twice this year, and if you don’t control it, there’s nothing left.”
According to the MD, drought conditions have impacted 50 to 90 per cent of crops, pasture and range yields, pointing to a lack of spring and in-season moisture combined with long durations of high temperatures and winds.
Figures from Environment and Climate Change Canada show no measurable precipitation for Pincher Creek in the first 10 days of August.
In all, close to two dozen MDs and counties have already made the declaration, including neighbouring Cardston County on July 16, and the list is sure to grow if the dry, hot conditions continue.