After the 2021 drought, things are looking up for Alberta crop farmers

·2 min read
Leroy Newman is vice-chair for Alberta Barley and farms near High River. He is encouraged by a better crop — and better pricing — than last year. (Submitted by Leroy Newman - image credit)
Leroy Newman is vice-chair for Alberta Barley and farms near High River. He is encouraged by a better crop — and better pricing — than last year. (Submitted by Leroy Newman - image credit)

After a drought in 2021 and a dry start to 2022, things are finally looking up for Alberta crop farmers, a new report from Statistics Canada suggests.

Thanks to better growing conditions in Western Canada, the agency's latest crop estimates predict farmers will produce significantly more wheat, canola, barley and other crops than they did last year.

"It's looking really, really good," said John Seay, unit head for Statistics Canada's crop reporting unit.

Statistics Canada's modelling is based on a combination of satellite technology and agroclimatic data.

It predicts wheat production in Alberta will increase 79.5 per cent this year relative to 2021, while canola production will increase 49 per cent.

2021 was 'depressing'

That will help bring yields back in line with five and 10-year averages, Seay said, after what farmers describe as one of the worst growing seasons in recent memory.

"Last year was basically the worst that I had seen since I started farming in the '80s," said Kevin Auch, who grows pulses, cereals, canola and flax near Carmangay, Alta., which is roughly 60 kilometres north of Lethbridge.

A lack of precipitation in the first half of the year led to fears 2022 would be a repeat of 2021, Auch said. Rainfall in June helped turn things around, he said.

Submitted by Kevin Auch
Submitted by Kevin Auch

"It wasn't perfect, but it's much better than it was," he said.

Producer Leroy Newman described 2021 as "depressing."

"As soon as we got an inch of rain, we knew we had a better crop than last year," said Newman, who farms wheat, barley, canola and peas near High River. He predicts his crop yields will be about average this year, or slightly above.

"It's encouraging, and prices are way better than they were last year."

While farmers continue to deal with supply chain issues and other challenges, Newman said for now, they're feeling pretty fortunate.

Statistics Canada is expected to release its next round of crop yield estimates in September.