Team Alberta calls for immediate improvements to risk management programs amid 'harvest from hell'

Poor harvest conditions in Alberta have caused an unthinkable about of economic loss let alone stress for the farmer this year. Mix in the uncertainty of trade, ongoing disputes across the global political stage, and business risk management (BRM) programs not being equipped to handle the issues is a recipe for disaster, according to Team Alberta.

The group, comprised of the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, Alberta Pulse Growers, and Alberta Canola say aggressive action is needed by both the provincial and federal governments to help with serious economic hardships people are facing.

“Farmers are facing the perfect storm of devastating harvest conditions, trade uncertainty and a lack of support through programs that should be mitigating these challenges,” says Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair.

The latest crop report states 2019’s wet conditions have resulted in 11 per cent of the crop still left in the fields, but 17.3 per cent of the canola crop, nearly 15 per cent of the potato crop and 45 per cent of the sugar beet crop. In total, it’s estimated there is $778 million worth of unharvested acres throughout Alberta.

The Peace Region is particularly hard hit, where only 60 per cent of the crop is harvested, with other pockets on the Highway 2 corridor where less than half of the harvest is complete.

“This is the kind of uncertainty that’s bigger than farm business cash flow. The weight of these combined challenges starts to threaten farmers’ mental health,” says Gary Stanford, Alberta Wheat chair.

Team Alberta is calling on the federal government to look more closely at how their actions are hurting producers in the long run and to make, “immediate improvements to the BRM programs under the current review.” In addition, the group is asking for immediate adjustments to AgriStability to increase covered losses starting at 85 per cent of reference margins and for the removal of Reference Margin Limits in time for the 2020 harvest.

“We’ve seen bad harvests in three out of the last four growing seasons. We can’t control the weather but it’s time for our governments to resolve the political issues that we can control,” says Don Shepert, Alberta Pulse Growers chair. “Not only are we facing trade barriers, but our competitors in the U.S. are receiving their third round of government payouts.”

According to the four groups there also needs to be an exemption on “all farm fuels used in operations for irrigating and grain drying” from the carbon tax as 2019 usage levels are higher than ever before due to drought or high moisture areas. To note, the federal government has already committed to exemptions on marked farm fuel under the carbon pricing backstop which will be applied in Alberta on January 1st, 2020.

Last week at Agri-trade, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Devin Dreeshen did acknowledge the severity of the harvest situation this year and also committed to working with his federal and provincial counterparts to improve the suite of BRM programs at meetings next month.

Team Alberta calls that a “good start” and hopes governments will act sooner than later.

“Farmers are experiencing the harvest from hell. Many of those in the worst hit areas won’t be able to get their crop off until the spring, which could push this year’s delays well into next year’s growing season,” says John Guelly, Alberta Canola chair. “Aggressive action from our governments on trade, BRMs and the carbon tax is a must.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, call the Alberta Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 (toll free) or visit www.domore.ag to learn more about resources available to you.

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