By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The 2023 harvest season in southern Alberta involved numerous challenges.
According to Lynn Jacobson, President of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, the 2023 crop year started off with a lack of soil moisture, or soil moistures that were well below the provincial average on much of the land in southern Alberta, and the region did not receive the spring rains it needed compared to the 2022 crop year where many areas of southern Alberta had much better levels of crop moisture going into the spring.
“While that moisture by itself was not enough to produce a good crop, many areas received timely rains through the growing season which allowed those areas to achieve their historic levels of crop production,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson says that as a result of a drought in the Enchant/Lomond area, along with many other areas in Western Canada in 2021, many of the dry land crops in 2023 just had enough moisture to germinate or had very spotty germination which affected those fields the entire growing season.
“Most of the dry land areas of southern Alberta and pastureland had very poor crop production,” Jacobson said. “Irrigation crops fared a lot better and most irrigation land production was normal or near normal. More water was used to produce those yields hence the issues that irrigation districts are facing with water supply for this year and potentially next year.”
As far as crop prices go this year, Jacobson says they are good to excellent, depending on the crop. However, Jacobson says that there is the potential for further price increases as the year progresses.
“The drought not only affected Alberta but large areas in the U.S. and other countries. Durum wheat production, worldwide, is an issue,” Jacobson said. “The price of food is the issue for many people. I will say that the price a producer receives for his/her product is a very small portion of the price at the grocery store.”
Jacobson says that crop production practices, such as no till and the way most producers apply their inputs, also has a great effect on agriculture in Alberta and other countries as does climate change and how that plays out.
“The Alberta Federation of Agriculture is a general farm organization (GFO) and as a result we deal with many aspects of agriculture that crop commissions don’t,” Jacobson said. “We work at the provincial and federal level addressing producer concerns about government policy affecting producers. We work closely with other GFOs across Canada through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and regionally with the GFO’s in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and B.C. Many of the concerns we have in Alberta are the same for others in Western Canada. Farm safety, labour, input costs, trade are just some of the issues we and other GFO’s are involved in.”
Further to the question of crops in Alberta this year, while the south was very dry as you moved north conditions improved in many areas, with some districts reporting near normal production levels and some areas receiving too much rain.