Like their counterparts in other areas of agriculture, wheat and barley producers in southern Alberta took a hit this year.
While the final numbers won’t be in for a couple of weeks, a lack of consistent moisture this past spring and summer has translated into a reduced harvest.
“Our yields are down quite a bit … probably about 60 per cent than what we were shooting for,” says Dean Hubbard, a director with the newly formed Alberta Grains Commission, which merged the province’s wheat and barley components under one umbrella.
“As you go towards Vulcan, a lot of the crops in that area were kind of written off already back in July.”
While we saw rain in September, Hubbard feels it’s a case, at least for grass-fed producers, of “too little, too late.”
“It’s going to be pretty hard, especially on the grasslands, for it to respond with any amount of growth to help out the ranchers,” he says. “In the Pincher Creek area, there would be quite a bit of forage crops like alfalfa or alfalfa grass mixes that would be affected.”
In mid August, the MD of Pincher Creek made the rare move of declaring an agricultural disaster. It wasn’t alone, with well over two dozen counties and districts doing the same.
The latest agriculture moisture situation report, provided by the province Sept. 20, still shows a dry southwest. In fact, you have to travel to the Barrhead region in the northwest to see good or better-than-good growing conditions.
Hubbard, who farms close to 3,000 acres east of Claresholm, urges struggling producers to consider contacting the aid programs offered.
“I don’t know many people that are self-insured,” he adds.
This year, no doubt, can be added to a long list of tough years for southern Alberta farmers when it comes to production.
“Since about 2015, I would say we’ve been below average except for, maybe, one year … either 2020 or 2021 when we caught some rains just at the right time and had exceptional crops,” Hubbard says. “Even in that year, we were extremely dry in July.”
During the month of September, the Pincher Creek airport received just under 38 millimetres of precipitation, slightly more than the average.
However, the hope, particularly for producers, is for a large snowpack, come this winter. Failing that, a normal late heavy snowfall in April would also set up farmers for a good 2024, but, then again, Mother Nature has been her normal self for the last few years.
The region’s farmers are optimistically hoping next year will be different.
By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 05, 2023 at 15:36