Hay crop half of normal, grain not looking good

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

In the Flatbush area, hay crops are half to a third the normal size. Canola and grain crops don’t look good, but until they are harvested the exact impact of the hot dry summer will be unknown.

The year started out well, says Murray Kerik, farmer and M.D. of Lesser Slave River reeve. Seeding was done early, but then it got dry.

“It’s ugly,” he says. “Our hay is probably 50 per cent.”

Kerik recently cut his herd, to a third its former size, but hasn’t sold any land, so his farm should be alright. However, other farmers won’t be as lucky.

On July 27, Kerik figured that without substantial rain in a few days, it will be a very hard year for cattle farmers.

“Pastures are running out,” he says. “It’s not going to be a good year.”

Often, when the hay crop is bad in northern Alberta it’s good in the south, says Kerik. This year however, the hay is bad in BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Kerik estimates that instead of $50 to $60 a bale this winter, the cost of hay will be $140.

Both Kerik and M.D. of Lesser Slave River councillor Robert Esau farm in the Flatbush area. Esau is retired, but still involved with the family farm. This is the southeastern most part of the M.D. of Lesser Slave River. The Esau family farm is mixed with both cattle and grain.

“It (canola and grain) looks anywhere from poor to disaster, but the final diagnosis will come at the end of the season,” says Esau. “It was really dire and then we got a few showers. Let us hope it’s enough to get us to the next year.”

“It was way too dry and way too hot,” says Esau. “In all my life, I’ve never seen it that hot and that long.”

“We have land that runs right up to the Pembina (River),” says Esau. The fish were dying and floating down the river.

The death of the fish is attributed to extreme heat, which CBC News said in a video in early July was caused by something called a ‘heat dome.’

The provincial and federal governments are looking into ways of salvaging poor crops as feed-stock, says Kerik.
On July 22, the Alberta government announced that it is changing the crop insurance program.

The news release says, “Low Yield Allowance is a standard part of the production insurance program, and is meant for situations of extreme heat and severe drought. Alberta is doubling the low yield threshold to allow for additional cereal or pulse crops to be salvaged for livestock feed. For example, the barley crop threshold will be increased from 150 to 300 kg per acre.”

Earlier, the province reduced the premium cost by 20 per cent for crop, pasture and forage insurance.

The Alberta NDP calls on the government to settle all agricultural insurance claims within the same calendar year as the claim was made.

“Far too many claims are left waiting nearly a year for compensation,” says NDP agriculture critic Heather Sweet, in a news release. “That cannot happen this year, especially not with the major destruction we are seeing.”

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