County hoping declaration brings help

Editor’s note: Big Lakes County released the following news release July 15 regarding their declaration of the agriculture disaster July 15:

Big Lakes County council declared a Municipal Agricultural Disaster at the June 24 meeting.

In 2019, agricultural producers faced a year of continuing challenges, with a very wet fall and an early snowfall causing pockets of the county to remain unharvested.

In the spring of 2020, the county saw above-average moisture conditions, severely impacting producers’ ability to seed crops and harvest remaining crops from 2019.

“This past year, local producers have had an increasingly difficult and stressful harvest and spring seeding, which has caused many hardships, both financially and mentally,” said Big Lakes County agricultural advisory committee chair Doug Meneice.

“With approximately 40 per cent of the land seeded in our county, and with the recent precipitation and flooding, we anticipate a challenging 2020 harvest. With the unexpected precipitation in 2019 and 2020, many hay producers will also be affected in attempts to bale quality hay to raise livestock through the winter months. Anticipating a shortage of cereal crops as well as quality hay will again put extreme financial hardship on beef producers.”

Currently, thousands of acres remain unseeded throughout the county. Producers who were fortunate enough to seed successfully have struggled with adverse growing conditions brought about by the cool, wet weather and have not been able to access fields to apply crop protection.

“Our agriculture industry has faced several challenges in the past five years, leaving our producers financially in need of a good growing season and strong cattle prices,” said Big Lakes County Reeve Richard Simard.

“2020 instead handed them COVID-19 and poor seeding and growing conditions. While Business Risk Management products are available to bridge bad seasons, the compounded impact of multiple years of terrible conditions has left council deeply concerned for the future of agriculture within Big Lakes County and Alberta without additional support.”

Through the declaration of a Municipal Agricultural Disaster, Big Lakes County council hopes that the Government of Alberta considers supporting our producers in the form of increased financial aid and increased access to mental health recourses. In doing so, the county hopes to ensure the continued viability of the agricultural sector in our area and Alberta.

“In Big Lakes County it is predominantly agriculture that we rely upon economically, with many producers depending upon that industry to live and to raise their families,: said Meneice.

“We hope that the provincial and federal governments understand the exceptional hardships placed upon producers and that they comprehend the value that our agricultural industry adds to our local, Canadian, and global economy.”

Mental health resources

Alberta Addiction and Mental Health – Help Line: 1-877-303-2642 or Dial 811. One in five Canadians, including Albertans, will experience a mental illness in their lifetime and the remaining four will be affected by the mental health issues of a loved one.

The Support Network – 24-hour distress lines for Northern Alberta: 1-800 232-7288.

Canadian Mental Health Association – As the nationwide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA facilitates access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.

The Do More Agriculture Foundation – Do More Ag is a not-for-profit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture across Canada.

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