BOWDEN - Premier Jason Kenney says millions of new dollars of relief earmarked for Alberta’s cattle ranchers will help alleviate what has become a serious situation, due to the ongoing drought in the province.
In all, the province will be making $136 million available under the AgriRecovery program, and has asked the federal government to provide an additional $203 million under the joint provincial-federal initiative.
The new money will provide much-needed support and cash flow for Alberta’s livestock producers, hard-hit by drought and the resulting shortages of feed, he said.
“These conditions have our livestock producers face-to-face with some real heartbreaking choices that put their operation at risk for the future and they need our help,” Kenney said a during a press conference outside Bowden on Friday. “Alberta is taking immediate action to provide emergency support for our livestock producers.
“This new money and these change won’t solve all the problems created by drought conditions in the province, but it will give farmers and ranchers some room to breathe and hopefully a little bit of peace of mind.”
Kenney was joined at the press conference by Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA and Minister of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen, Sundre-area MLA and Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon, Alberta Beef Producers general manager Brad Dubeau, and others.
Kenney said it is hoped that the federal portion of the relief funding will be approved in short order, “Because there are rumours that there will be federal election called soon.”
Minister Dreeshen said producers will be receiving $94 per head in immediate support, with more to come once the $204 million in federal money is approved, representing $106 additional per head.
“It is exciting relief for our livestock industry to make sure that they can feed their animals and they won’t have to face the choice of depleting their herds, which would have huge economic consequence for the province of Alberta” said Dreeshen.
Only about 20 per cent Alberta crops and pastures are doing well this year, due to the drought, he said.
Minister Nixon announced that his department is making a number of temporary changes to grazing and water regulations to help livestock producers.
“For anyone who is interested in that I encourage them to call 310-FARM and our department will make sure we connect them with grazers across the province,” said Nixon.
“Also effective immediately Alberta Environment and Parks will be opening up public land across the province to work with grazers to be able to get access to feed and hay on public lands across the province.”
The department is working to keep the Eastern Slopes open as long as possible this year, and is also working to speed up water licences and access to water for grazers, he said.
“Alberta’s government is committed to providing essential supports for farmers and ranchers across the province that have been affected by severe drought conditions, he said.
Alberta Beef Producers is an 18,000 member organization that promotes the cattle industry in the province. General manager Brad Dubeau says the new funding and other changes are welcome and needed.
“This will be (giving) struggling producers some much-needed hope,” said Dubeau. “We're looking forward to working with you in the coming days to roll out the application details to aid as many producers as possible. We appreciate the Alberta government stepping in before a bad situation becomes even worse.”
The press conference took place farm property owned by Scott and Linda Severtson east of Bowden.
“I would like to thank the government of Alberta for demonstrating some incredible leadership through out this drought and recognizing that farmers and ranchers play a huge role in our province. It truly means a lot to us at the ground level,” said Scott Severtson.
Alberta livestock producers provide food for people across Alberta and around the world, he said.
Following Friday’s press conference outside Bowden, NDP Official opposition agriculture critic Heather Sweet issued a statement in response.
“Alberta producers facing a challenging season have been advocating for practical and strong policy responses to this drought for weeks already,” said Sweet. “The UCP simply took too long to act. Now, as ranchers decide how much of their herd to cull, they will be forced to wait for financial assistance as less than half of the announced money will flow immediately.
“The UCP needs to ensure this funding is administered and delivered into the hands of producers as soon as possible, avoiding the same mistakes of the broken support programs they launched throughout this pandemic.”
Sweet says she will be touring central and southern Alberta starting this week to “hear directly from producers about what they need from the government and I look forward to presenting more ideas to help producers in the days ahead.”
Full details for the new provincial funding announced on Friday can be found at alberta.ca.
The federal government approved $100 million in aid for Canadian livestock producers last week.