Declaring Disaster!

drought conditions

By Harry Brook

It has been a very challenging year for agriculture in Alberta. Extreme temperatures coupled with little rain has led to drastically reduced crop yield potential and little pasture and hay growth. Many counties and municipalities have declared their areas to be agricultural disaster areas. What does it really mean?

When a county declares an agricultural disaster, it is used as a tool to make provincial and federal governments, residents and industry groups aware of a developing situation. It has nothing to do with eligibility for government programs. When a municipality declares a disaster it does NOT automatically trigger access to emergency funding programs, provincially or federally.

Whether the county declares, or doesn’t declare an agricultural disaster, has no effect on the eligibility of local producers getting access to available programs. Eligibility for support programs relies on information from a number of sources. These include AFSC crop production, weather data and the Rural Municipalities Association and the Association of Alberta Agricultural Fieldmen reports.

The provincial government of Alberta must declare a disaster to access funds for claim payments, as it has done so this year. Municipalities, like counties, assist in distributing information to Ag Service Boards, agricultural organizations and the public.

Before a formal declaration, the county has to answer a number of key questions. They have to determine if the disaster is the entire county or just a part, does it cover specific commodities or all agricultural production, and have they contact local producer groups and associations to discuss the impacts being felt. Is there data to support the decision?

Currently there has been some provincial assistance announcements for livestock producers. There is a $200/head payment for cattle producers, in two parts. Some counties have been added to the Livestock Tax Deferral program where a percentage of proceeds from the sale of breeding stock can be deferred to future years, allowing for future expansion of the cow herd. The number of counties to be added to the tax deferral list will continue to grow. Also, applications for temporary grazing or haying on vacant Crown land will be taken.

Funds from the $200/head are to be used for purchasing feed, water pumping and access and fencing. Part of the funding is coming under the AgriRecovery program under CAP. With crop insurance, the low yield allowance threshold value has been doubled to allow for salvaging of cereal or pulse crops for livestock feed. This will allow livestock producer to salvage annual crops while they still have good feed value. 

Once again, a county does not have to declare an emergency to access these programs. Eligibility will be determined by weather and production data.

The Flagstaff ASB and County office are aware of the conditions and stresses facing agricultural producers and are monitoring the situation. And we’re all hoping for better moisture for the future.

Harry Brook is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.