By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Alberta’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) hosted a virtual media roundtable on Oct. 30 to announce a recovery infusion of $165 million to support livestock producers affected by drought and extreme growing conditions in 2023.
The AFSC news release cited “a tough growing season with challenges due to dry conditions, causing many of our farmers and ranchers to face extraordinary costs. To help them through this difficult time, the governments of Alberta and Canada are partnering on a 2023 Drought Livestock Assistance Response.”
At the roundtable, RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, explained the thrust behind the initiative and reiterated what the news release said, specifically that, “Many Alberta livestock producers have faced multiple challenges this growing season. This year’s drought and excessive heat has resulted in our ranchers facing extra costs due to lost grazing days. We recognize their stress as the winter feeding months approach. This program will help alleviate some of the cost pressures, and support producers in protecting their livelihoods while they continue to put food on tables around the world.”
Livestock producers with grazing animals are now eligible to apply for financial support to help cover the years’ losses.
“Eligible producers could access up to $150 per head to help maintain their breeding herd in drought affected regions,” Sigurdson said.
When asked about the minimum requirements for receiving assistance, he said that producers must have altered their usual grazing practices for more than 21 days in 2023 and also have incurred losses in order to manage and maintain breeding animals. In addition, they must have a minimum of 15 animals per type of livestock. The AFSC website links to a regional map showing the most drought-impacted areas of the province. The shaded regions are the ‘eligible zones’ and are located primarily north and northwest of Edmonton and south from Bonnyville along the Saskatchewan border and almost everywhere south of Ponoka.
The news release called the AFSC’s business risk management programs “the first line of response in supporting producers to mitigate the impacts of the excessive heat and extremely dry conditions in Alberta.” The programs include AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriRecovery and AgriInvest.
Answering a question about how severe the moisture deficiency became in 2023, Sigurdson replied, “When I was announced as Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, on the first day we were looking at reports (and) some of the areas in the province were in one to 50 to one to 100 year lows. So that’s why we immediately moved forward with applying for an agri-recovery program with the feds on July 5, knowing that we were going to see a year that put some pressure on our livestock producers.”
Funding for the joint AgriRecovery initiative is cost-shared through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), with the federal government providing $99 million and the provincial government providing $66 million. According to the release, “Sustainable CAP is a five-year program, beginning this year, and includes a $3.5 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen competitiveness, innovation and resiliency in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector. This investment includes $1 billion in federal programs and $2.5 billion in cost-shared programs funded 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially-territorially.”
Other provisions noted in the AFSC release were as follows:
-Livestock Tax Deferral, a federal provision that allows livestock producers who are forced to sell all or part of their breeding herd due to drought to defer a portion of their income from sales until the following tax year. As of Oct. 20, there are 57 prescribed Alberta regions for the federal Livestock Tax Deferral.
-Low Yield Allowance, which allows for additional cereal or pulse crops to be salvaged for livestock feed, was doubled by AFSC for 2023.
-Water Pumping Program, which enables producers to rent pipe and pumping equipment from the Alberta government to fill dugouts from nearby water sources.
-Temporary Livestock Water Assistance program, which enables livestock and poultry producers affected by water shortage and drought conditions to receive streamlined support.
-Sustainable CAP Water Program, which helps producers adopt agricultural water management practices to manage risks to water quality and supplies and adapt to climatic variability.
-AFSC’s Moisture Deficiency Insurance (pasture) and Moisture Deficiency Endorsement (hay), which compensates producers when precipitation falls below the normal expected amount at selected weather stations. Producers can also buy production insurance on hay crops.
-Alberta provides timely information to assist producers with management decisions during dry conditions and periods of business stress, including the Alberta Crop Report, Alberta Climate Information Service and other resources on the farming in dry conditions webpage.
The AFSC will administer the program and livestock producers can get more information and apply online at afsc.ca/income-stabilization/agrirecovery. Applications are now open.