BY ,  Edmonton Sun

The Alberta government has declared a state of disaster for farmers whose crops have been crippled by irregular weather.

Lee Markert, a fifth generation canola farmer and board chair with the Alberta Canola Producers Association, says insurance and relief funds freed up for producers through the declaration will help farmers survive the season, but producers are going to have to adjust to increasingly unusual weather patterns to make it in the long term.

“The one thing about farming is you can’t control the weather, so we’re going to have to adapt and adjust as the weather evolves,” Markert said.

Agriculture producers are expected to access nearly $1 billion in crop insurance claims after Alberta’s worst drought since 2009, and crop yields are expected to be down between 25-30%.

“It’s clear that many producers are facing challenges because of the dry conditions this year, and that’s why we are finding common sense ways to help out farmers during these difficult times,” said Agriculture and Forestry minister Oneil Carlier in a statement earlier this month.

The ministry has already halved rental fees for the Water Pumping Program, providing pumps and pipes to help farmers get water to their livestock by filling nearby dugouts or catch basins.

To address feed shortages caused by a dry spring, the Ministry of Environment and Parks is working with municipalities to allow temporary grazing and hay crops on public land.

Across Alberta, 78% of crops and 29% of pasture acreage has been insured through the Alberta Financial Services Corporation [AFSC] for 2015 and around $70 million has been paid out in multi-peril crop insurance alone.

Markert says it’s a much needed lifeline after an exceptionally dry spring followed by erratic weather patterns that have decimated crops, with central Alberta hit particularly hard.

“Access to disaster relief funds and insurance funds are going to be critical for our producers in order to sustain their operations into next year and beyond,” said Markert, who says proper soil conservation practices have helped some areas maintain moisture levels and lessened the blow.

Meanwhile dry conditions could be a contributing factor in the deaths of at least one bison from Syncrude Canada’s herd this week and two other bison deaths in Wood Buffalo National Park earlier this summer.

Anthrax is a naturally occurring deadly bacteria that can lay dormant in the soil for decades, more likely to get kicked up in drier seasons.

Two other bison found dead from Syncrude Canada’s herd are being tested for anthrax.


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