Alberta’s agriculture minister recently acknowledged that 80 per cent of farmers are affected by low moisture levels and grasshopper infestations. But while the province realizes the severity of the situation, it has still fallen short of establishing a disaster recovery program (DRP) to address the crisis.
Our PC Caucus believes the parameters to establish a DRP have been met, and in failing to do so, the Alberta government is effectively telling the 19 counties and MDs that they are not facing a true agricultural disaster.
The government is basing its weak response on the effectiveness of crop insurance. While we agree that insurance provides a solid safety net most years, there are times when it isn’t enough. It is pretty clear that 2015 is such a case.
We believe producers facing the greatest loss of yearly revenue, as well as cases where insurance will not cover extraordinary losses, require immediate capital assistance. Unfortunately, the NDP government has taken a wait-and-see approach to the crisis, which we believe is unacceptable.
Most of the 19 counties and districts that have declared disasters have provided the province with specific recommendations for assistance, such as disaster loan programs, freight subsidies, payment deferrals, and excluding 2015 crop yields from the crop insurance long-term average for individual farms. These recommendations are good fodder for a government truly wishing to assist farmers.
We urge the Alberta government to assess the municipalities’ recommendations in creating a DRP to address the drought, and work with the federal government to set up a similar disaster program to the one the province establishes. And it needs to fast-track this process.
Our PC Caucus will continue to echo the concerns of Alberta’s hard-hit counties and MDs until we are confident the NDP government is doing everything it can to assist our province’s farmers and producers.
Wayne Drysdale, MLA
PC Caucus Critic for Agriculture, Forestry & Rural Development