‘The harvest that’ll never end’: Warm start to November provides brief relief to Alberta farmers

‘The harvest that’ll never end’: Warm start to November provides brief relief to Alberta farmers
The over the past few days have been welcome news to several farmers who have struggled to harvest their crops because of wet summer weather and snow in October.

“It’s been a trying one. It’s tested our patience, there’s no question,” Chris Allam, part owner and operations manager at Allam Farms in Strathcona County, said of this year’s harvest season.

“The snow kind of held us up here. It’s been the harvest that’ll never end.”

Temperatures soared into the teens in the Capital Region late last week, providing a second opportunity for Alberta farmers to get out and harvest their crops.

While Sunday’s rain hampered efforts yet again, Allam said he and his neighbours have been working long hours over the past few days to salvage whatever they can.

“Having it nice over the last few days has helped us get another few hundred acres done. It’s also allowed a whole bunch of other people to get a lot of combining done.”

Allam was lucky enough to harvest about 90 per cent of his crop before the snow fell in October, bringing harvest season to a halt across much of Alberta. Some of his neighbours weren’t so lucky.

“You’ve got some guys that are going to have 50 per cent of their crop,” he said. “There’s those guys that are farming just a few acres and half their crop’s on the ground – that’s going to be really tough for them. That’s a huge financial blow at 50 per cent of your income going away.

“Every day your crop’s out there, the risk increases. The longer it’s out there, the more value you could potentially lose. It could be very concerning.”

Leduc County farmer Russell Kushinski said he was able to harvest about 75 per cent of his crop before the October snowfall. He’s hoping for several days of dry, windy weather to help him finish the job.

“We’ve had some decent November weather and the forecast looks good so if we can get by this rain here today, if we get 10 days of nice weather, quite a bit of the farmers will get done,” he said.

“What’s left is probably most of the farmer’s profit. If they’ve left 25 per cent out there or 20 per cent in their fields, that’s the profit that they need to purchase newer equipment, which in-turn gets the economy going,” he said.

“With the oil patch down, now if agriculture takes a hit it’s going to be hard on the province.”

According to Alberta’s most recent crop report filed on Nov. 1, about 76 per cent of crops are in the bin, 14 per cent are swathed and 10 per cent are still standing.

Last week, two Alberta counties declared states of agricultural disaster due to the dire harvest season. On Wednesday, Brazeau County, southwest of Edmonton, said council voted unanimously to declare a state of agricultural disaster “due to the hardship that weather conditions, specifically excessive and persistent precipitation, have placed on local farmers.”

Watch below: Brazeau County declared state of agricultural disaster last week after wet summer and early fall snow. Tom Vernon reports. (Filed Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016). 

The county said about 75 per cent of unharvested cereals in Brazeau County remain standing, as does 84 per cent of unharvested spring wheat, 64 per cent of unharvested barley and 79 per cent of unharvested oats.

A day later, Lac Ste. Anne County, northwest of Edmonton, declared a state of agricultural disaster “due to the weather conditions hampering harvest efforts in the region this fall.”

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said the province takes the issue seriously and the government continues to find ways to support farm families.

“We have taken a proactive approach by providing Alberta producers with Business Risk Management programs through the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation,” Carlier said in a statement Wednesday.

“It’s been a real heartbreaker of the year. We understand the wet and snowy conditions are delaying harvest and having an impact on the quality of crops in many parts of Alberta.”

Watch below: The harvest season has become so bad for Alberta farmers that a couple of counties have declared states of agricultural disaster, including Lac Ste. Anne County. Julia Wong reports. (Filed Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016). 

A year of too much precipitation is a stark contrast to what farmers faced with last year’s drought.

During the 2015 growing season, due to the economic losses and hardship resulting from extreme weather conditions. The government’s move came after many counties declared their own regional states of agricultural disaster.
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