Drought and grasshoppers have decimated crops in parts of Alberta.
Without yields to generate income, farm families have to hunker down to pay their essential bills, and rural communities suffer from the lack of dollars flowing into local businesses.
Without hay and pasture, ranchers cannot feed their cattle and must reduce herds they have spent years painstakingly building up.
These unusual conditions have created an economic hardship that is threatening to worsen as the summer of 2015 continues. To date, 12 municipalities have declared agricultural disasters, with more rural councils scheduling meetings in the coming weeks to consider the conditions in their areas. Municipalities do not take this step lightly. They do so to ensure that provincial and federal government assistance is available to their agricultural producers.
The Alberta and federal governments have a good slate of insurance programs to assist producers when the vagaries of climate create financial hardship. Producers are hopefully applying to take advantage of these programs.
On occasion, though, we experience an agricultural disaster for which the safety nets do not suffice. The drought of 2015 is one of these crises, especially when it comes to assistance for beef producers who are faced with selling cattle to ride through a harsh period.
The job of the provincial government in a crisis such as this one is to establish a provincial disaster recovery program (DRP) for the affected areas and to strongly advocate to the federal government to set up a similar program.
As the agriculture critic for the PC Caucus, I will talk with our new agriculture minister and urge him take these steps to address the impacts of this drought not covered by existing insurance programs. I have faith the minister will listen to the experienced voice of our caucus and respond in a way that will ultimately result in federal assistance to help rural Alberta during this crisis.
If farmers suffer financially, Alberta suffers economically and we cannot afford to let that happen. The Alberta and federal governments must work together to lessen the impact of this disaster on our agriculture industry.
Wayne Drysdale, MLA
PC Caucus Critic for Agriculture, Forestry & Rural Development