Dry weather, rising costs concern farmers

Beef cattle roam in a field on a farm in the High Prairie area. Producers are cautiously optimistic about a profitable year.
Beef cattle roam in a field on a farm in the High Prairie area. Producers are cautiously optimistic about a profitable year.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Farmers are concerned that more and rising costs, plus dry conditions could hurt profits this year.

“The outlook for beef in the High Prairie area and Alberta, is cautiously optimistic,” says Valleyview farmer Roland Cailliau, who is vice-chair of finance, Alberta Beef Producers.

“We as an industry, are at a time when our cow numbers are at a low not seen since the mid 1990s, and the profitability for the cow-calf sector, though not as high as the last couple of years, is still on the positive side of the ledger.”

Canadians are eating out less and eating less beef, with tight budgets, he says.

Agriculture would welcome a boost by “a government that doesn’t burden us with more costs, a Canadian economy that improves and stabilizes, and good exports arising through trade agreements that are beneficial to us”, Cailliau says.

He says producers also worry about impacts of a carbon tax and farm safety Bill 6.

Currently, farmers are urgently waiting for rain.

“Presently, Alberta, and the Peace Country particularly, is in dry to very dry conditions,” Cailliau says.
“Good, timely rains this spring and summer can literally make or break agriculture.”

Those factors also concern the Peace Country Beef and Forage Association.

“Another dry year will affect livestock producers negatively,” says Monika Benoit, manager of the High Prairie office.
“Adequate moisture and solid grazing plans will be essential for a successful 2016 for beef and forage producers.”

Seeding has begun across the Peace, with all reports of very dry soil, she says.

On the market side, prices are down from 2015.

“We likely won’t see prices as strong as the last two years,” Benoit says.

Factors such as strong market prices and timely rains with lots of sunshine would be ideal for agriculture producers across the Peace.

With the dry weather, farmers could see the return of the high grasshopper populations that devoured many crops last year, Benoit fears.

One concern that many producers have is increased regulations that cost farmers.

Christie’s Gardens and Greenhouses owner Christie Pollack predicts a healthy year for that industry as more people consider growing a garden to get fresher produce at a lower cost.

“Polling greenhouse owners across the province, the consensus for spring 2016, is that people will be spending more time in their outdoor spaces and gardens this season,” says owner Christie Pollack.
“The greenhouse industry forecasts higher vegetable, herb, and fruit-bearing tree and shrub sales than ever before – for families to use their gardens as a tool to save money.
“Not only is planting a vegetable garden a huge budget savings, but it’s also on trend,” Pollack says.

Beekeepers in the honey industry expect to sweeten the economic pot.

“I’m optimistic we’ll have a good year,” says McLennan beekeeper Grant Hicks, president of the Alberta Beekeepers for the past four years.
“We’ve had a good winter, bees survived and we’re off to a good early spring.”

Honey prices are down, to compete with fraudulent honey products on the market, he says.

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