It’s certainly no secret to any agricultural producer in the County of Stettler, but the municipality is facing historic levels of heat and lack of moisture according to one expert at the Government of Alberta. The Agriculture Service Board (ASB) heard a provincial update on drought at its regular board meeting Aug. 23.
The ASB is comprised of members of county council and chaired by Coun Dave Grover.
Board members heard a drought update over Zoom featuring Ralph Wright, spokesperson for the Alberta Climate Information Service, Alberta Agriculture who noted it’s been a long time since farming conditions were this bad in the County of Stettler.
As of Aug. 23 Wright noted the previous seven days saw some rain move into the County of Stettler adding up to about 1 to 3 mm in the southern end and about 5 to 10 mm in other areas.
Looking at the previous 30 days leading up to Aug. 23 Wright stated crops are probably finishing up while pastures and grazing lands are still in dire need of moisture.
Wright stated the situation across much of Alberta is the same, except for a swath of the west to northeast part of the province.
In central Alberta, noted Wright, it’s still very dry despite the meagre rainfall, noting some areas are recording 150-year lows in moisture levels.
In the County of Stettler over the past 30 days some areas are recording three to six year lows in moisture while other areas are closer to 12-year lows except near the river.
The expert noted some parts of the County of Stettler have received less than 20 mm of rain over the past 30 days, adding there is a huge area of southern Alberta in the same situation or worse, receiving less than 10 mm.
Illustrating his point with a full colour map, Wright showed how virtually all of Alberta has laboured under very warm temperatures most of the summer.
Councillors accepted Wright’s presentation as information.
Drought relief update
Councillors also discussed their efforts to find relief for County of Stettler producers from the drought. Director of Agriculture Services Quentin Beaumont stated a number of municipalities have joined the County of Stettler in declaring agricultural emergencies.
Coun. Grover asked if the county staff had heard anything about a possible $70 per head of cattle reimbursement for producers from the government. Beaumont noted he had heard nothing about that.
Coun. James Nibourg mused that $70 would buy a bucket to feed the cow in.
Reeve Larry Clark stated he felt the County of Stettler should continue to lobby the federal and provincial governments for help for producers coping with drought.
Coun. Les Stulberg stated he feels reopening the AgriRecovery program would be the best way to go, as the program is versatile and would allow producers to address their own individual challenges.
He made a motion for the County of Stettler to send letters to the federal and provincial governments presenting the case for AgriRecovery, which passed unanimously.
Board members also discussed drought conditions in southern Alberta, with the reeve noting source water in the south part of the province is said to be at very low levels.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review