Stettler County ag board says weather stations not always accurate

·4 min read

Stettler County’s Agriculture Services Board (ASB) heard a report about the relief available for beleaguered local farmers during their regular board meeting Aug. 25.

The ASB, which has as its board members all of county council, heard three reports delivered virtually from Agriculture Financial services Corporation (AFSC) representatives, an organization that provides financial programs and services to producers. The meeting was chaired by board member Les Stulberg.

First to speak was Jason Turner who noted he would start with producer’s most pressing needs, noting the provincial government had already announced support for livestock producers facing feed shortages due to this summer’s serious drought.

He updated board members on an important program AFSC is just finalizing, the Canada Alberta Livestock Feed Assistance Initiative (CALFA).

Turner stated full details on this federal and provincial program aren’t completely finalized but it’s known the program will offer an initial payment of $94 per head as of Aug. 6, 2021. Turner stated that’s for breeding females.

He said a secondary payment due to extraordinary causes is also part of the program but details weren’t available.

He stated AFSC is working to update its website to allow online applications for CALFA, which should be up and running by early Sept.

He noted an AFS account is necessary though which includes direct deposit through that account. Any producer that’s not currently an AFSC client will have to create an account to apply for the CALFA program.

Turner stated producers should prepare an inventory of breeding females on hand as of Aug. 6 of this summer. He said they should also be prepared to produce records of drought-related expenses.

Turner noted AFSC also has lending options available for producers who are existing clients. He said clients should contact their regular AFSC office to discuss lending options for producers to access working capital.

Board member James Nibourg asked if CALFA covered just breeding females, to which Turner answered, “Yes.” Turner noted replacement would only be available if they’re bred and reminded board members the terms and conditions of CALFA are not finalized yet.

Chair Stulberg asked if the $94 payment required documentation. Turner answered that first payment was based only on a declaration of inventory on hand as of Aug. 6.

The ASB then heard from Marilyn Smith about changes to the AgriStability program. Smith stated the reference margin limit has been removed from AgriStability for 2021 and 2022 and added this change will have a significant impact for many producers and is retroactive to the 2020 program year.

According to AFSC’s website, “This change makes AgriStability less complex, and more responsive to all types of farming operations. We anticipate that approximately half of participants will benefit from the change over time and their coverage could be increased by up to 30 per cent.”

Smith also noted a change made to the effects of private insurance. She stated payments received from private insurance are not included in the current year; premiums are considered an allowable expense.

Third to speak was Holly McLennan who stated AFSC is well aware of the drought situation and is examining the effects across the province. McLennan stated programs are available to help producers in drought, including Moisture Deficiency Insurance (MDI) which is based on accumulated information from almost 250 weather stations throughout the province.

Board member Larry Clarke stated the rain in central Alberta over the last few days showed how unreliable weather station data can be, as he farms east of Stettler where he got about two-tenths of an inch of rain, while closer to Red Deer producers saw more.

Board member Wayne Nixon agreed, stating he’s heard complaints of spotty rainfall where one producer gets a bit, while a mile or two away another producer gets little or nothing.

McLennan stated no matter where the weather stations are placed there are anomalies. “We all know when we play with Mother Nature she’s not fair,” said McLennan.

Stulberg stated it seems no one remembers that extremely hot and dry weather at the start of the growing season is what crippled crops.

Turner added that AFSC is having its website tweaked so that relief program information is easy to find.

AFSC offices are located across Alberta, including Stettler, Oyen, Lacombe, Three Hills, Camrose and Hanna and your closest one can be found by calling toll-free 1-877-899-2372.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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