Bread and butter is only bread and butter when both are present. Take out the bread and you’re left eating butter rather unpalatably.
In 2015 farm cash receipts for Alberta totaled $13.6 billion, representing 23% of Canada’s primary agricultural production. There are approximately 158.7 million acres of land in Alberta. Now, of that, 52 million are used for agriculture and about 20 million acres of agricultural land are used for grazing, or is in native grassland areas. In all about 32 million acres of land in Alberta are considered cultivated, with seven million of those acres being in hay or tame pasture land. That leaves 23 million acres for crop cultivation, about two million of which are in summer fallow each year.
That’s a lot of data, but why is it important? Our bread suppliers are taking a significant hit, that’s why.
Last year, what with the unusually wet weather we had, it was estimated that as of this spring there were currently 960,000 acres of cropland (1500 sections) still to be harvested. For those farmers waiting for an Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) agent to assess their crops, they should know that there are only around 120 AFSC crop adjusters available for the entire province of Alberta.
That means, within a short period of spring, each crop adjuster would have to work around the clock, assessing crops, with no weekends or holidays, in order to get 960,000 acres of cropland assessed and give hundreds of farmers the ability to move forward.
Given that the window of opportunity for assessment is so small, and the importance so large, I’d say they better get a move on.
The NDP government could however take this opportunity to properly support farmers impacted by these lost and unharvestable crops. The minister has an obligation to farmers, and their families, especially under these extraordinary conditions, to exercise his authority and get AFSC to resolve this crisis. Time is of the essence. Farmers can’t continue waiting for an AFSC agent to declare their crops usable or a 100 per cent write off. They need the government to act now.
We need to keep our agricultural sector as healthy and flourishing as possible. A strong agricultural community means a stronger economy, which means a stronger Alberta.
The NDP must let farmers know, through AFSC and any public means, what options are available in order to get the 2016 crop dealt with and the 2017 crop in the ground to avoid another lost season. Because when the farmers lose, Alberta loses.
Don MacIntyre, MLA
#2, 160 Hewlett Park Landing
Sylvan Lake, AB, T4S 2J3