Due to prolonged drought conditions, Rocky View County (RVC) council has declared a municipal agricultural disaster today.
"This declaration highlights how one of the worst growing seasons in recent memory has created a very difficult time for our producers,” said Reeve Dan Henn.
"Back in the 80s, we had a pretty good drought situation in Rocky View," he says. "This year is drier than that."
Low soil moisture in the spring, lack of seasonal rain, and the prolonged heatwave in June and July have amplified the challenges farmers and ranchers are now facing.
County officials say more than 50 per cent of pastures and crops across the county are currently rated as poor, with the condition and quality tracking well below the five- and 10-year averages. Producers are expecting to see up to a 50 per cent reduction in yield for canola, wheat, and barley.
The county's east side is experiencing particularly low soil moisture reserves, with much of the area seeing a once in 25-50 year low. The remainder of the county falls between very low “once in 12-25 years” to moderately low “once in 3-6 years” soil moisture reserves.
A small portion of land on the western border has near-normal levels. These conditions have resulted in reduced sources of feed and projected low crop yields.
“Rocky View County recognizes the importance of agricultural production to the economy and stands with local producers during this difficult time. We will continue to advocate for relief measures at the provincial level and will support producers in accessing any recovery and assistance programs that become available,” said Henn.
Henn says the drought doesn't only impact farmers and ranchers, it spirals through the entire food supply sector.
"We think that when there's a drought it just affects the grain guys, but it's definitely going to affect cattle producers because the price of calves won't be as high this fall. I would say hay prices are almost half again what they were last year. So a bail of hay that cost $6 or $7 last year will be $10 to $12 this year for a person just feeding a horse recreationally."
Just coming off a record year of moving grain, both CN and CP Rail have already forecasted a lower shipping demand for grain than has been experienced the last two years.