September 20th, 2021

Gov’t looking to support drought-stricken farmers, opposition says too little too late


By Tim Kalinowski on August 4, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The Government of Alberta says it is taking action to help drought-hit ranchers, but NDP Opposition members say these actions are too little too late.
According to a release from the Government of Alberta and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry the province is taking action on several fronts, including doubling the low yield threshold to encourage Alberta grain farmers to divest their sun-ravaged crops to preserve the feed value, providing assistance through Alberta’s Water Pumping Program to ensure adequate supply for domestic, livestock or other agricultural purposes, allowing a 20 per cent dedication on premiums for crop, pasture and forage insurance, hiring 21 additional crop inspectors at Alberta’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation to speed up insurance claims, and encouraging use of the Federal Livestock Tax Deferral program so drought-impacted livestock producers can defer paying part of their taxes on sales of livestock until 2022.
Alberta is also joining other provinces in requesting that the federal government undertake a formal assessment for an AgriRecovery response so more producers can be eligible for relief.
Finance Minister Travis Toews spoke to local reporters about some of these initiatives while in town last week for the Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Sandman Signature Lodge.
“We are going through a real tough time with this drought,” Toews acknowledged. “And Alberta farmers and ranchers need to know this government will be there for them.
“The most acute need in terms of this drought is to ensure that we can maximize the value of the crop that is out there,” he added, explaining why the doubling of the low yield threshold is important. “That is job number one today. And so that’s why Minister (Devin) Dreeshan announced AFSC was moving the threshold for crop write offs up to 14 bushels an acre (from 7 bushels an acre), basically doubling that. So farmers with crop insurance can make a very quick decision. They know if their crop is under 14 bushels per acre that they can immediately allow that crop to be harvested for feed purposes, which is critically important to maximize its value.”
Toews promised more news on the AgriRecovery program front as the results of the policy discussions with the federal government progress, and he stated the government was moving to add more inspectors to expedite the crop write-off process at AFSC.
NDP Opposition Finance Critic Shannon Phillips said it was UCP cuts at AFSC that led to the sluggish and slow response of the provincial government to this year’s drought conditions- to the ultimate detriment of producers and farmers.
“There is no question UCP policies led to a number of layoffs at AFSC, and when we were at Stampede we heard from producers whose constant refrain was those cuts the UCP made at AFSC are making it so their claims from last year are still being processed, nevermind this year,” she stated.
“So it is very clear whether its cuts to agriculture research, whether its cuts to direct service programming for producers, or tinkering at AFSC, that the best interests of Alberta’s primary producers are not being helped by this government.”

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