Alberta farm groups want provincial action on unharvested crops

A coalition of Alberta farm groups calling itself “Team Alberta” is meeting with the province’s agriculture minister and representatives from the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) on Wednesday seeking immediate action regarding approximately one million unharvested acres still sitting in farmers’ fields.

They are recommending that farmers in the hardest hit areas of Alberta be provided with options for removing last year’s crop without having their insurance payout compromised.

“This recommendation is consistent with the message Team Alberta has carried in discussions with the provincial government throughout the fall and winter of 2016 in anticipation of the spring seeding season,” they say in a release.

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“In many areas, destroying last year’s crop is the only solution that ensures farmers can seed this year’s crop early enough to avoid fall frost damage,” said Kevin Auch, Alberta Wheat Commission chair. “We need quick action from the government to ensure farmers avoid a repeat of the circumstances they faced last year.”

Crop insurance rules require farmers to get a pre-harvest assessment before putting their crop to another use, even though it may not be salvageable. Heavy snowfall over the Easter weekend has further reduced the commercial potential for crops in the hardest hit areas and more snow is expected through the region this week.

Farmers fear the added moisture will making harvest virtually impossible and further jeopardize the viability of this year’s crop.

“If harvesting simply isn’t an option because of timing and wet conditions, the procedures around crop insurance payouts will need to be adjusted so farmers’ crops aren’t compromised two years in a row,” said Jason Lenz, Alberta Barley chair.

“Farmers that were hit with more wet weather last week are even worse off since the conditions aren’t conducive to harvesting,” said Greg Sears, Alberta Canola Producers Commission chair. “With more snowfall predicted this week, the reality is that farmers in certain areas won’t have a viable crop again this year if options aren’t immediately made available to them.”

“Last year’s unseasonably wet conditions led the Alberta Government to declare a state of agricultural disaster,” said D’Arcy Hilgartner, Alberta Pulse Growers chair. “Our intent with this meeting is to work with the government to find solutions that ensures last year’s disaster doesn’t put this year’s crop at risk.”

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