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Alberta farmers assess flood damage

Grain and livestock farmers in Southern Alberta are still measuring the damage after the worst flooding in the region’s history late last week and early this week.

“We believe at this point the damage [to farmers] is minimal, but we’re still assessing,” says Karen Karbashewski, a spokesperson for Alberta Agriculture. She adds that 22 communities have been under a state of emergency.

Verlyn Olson, the provincial agriculture minister, says it will take time to assess all the potential damage, but was quoted in the Calgary Herald as saying the majority of southern Alberta cropland fared relatively well, and that he hasn’t received reports of significant livestock losses. The province is home to some 40 per cent of the country’s cattle herd.

Damage seems to have been mostly concentrated around urban regions and agricultural areas affected by flood have been localized around waterways and not widespread. Livestock producers in affected areas were urged to move their animals to higher ground.

“Serious flooding was limited to the river valleys and low land that the rivers could back up to,” says Lynn Jacobson, president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture. “Overall, agriculture was not as affected as one might have thought.”

He notes river valleys have a lot of pastures, including those along the flooded Bow, Elbow and Oldman rivers.

“If a producer’s operation was not located exclusively to the river bottom, they would have some pastures flooded, but it will recover and they will be able to use it later. If their home base was in the river bottom, it’s gone,” Jacobson says.

In some areas, grain producers’ fields are very wet, with low areas flooded out beyond recovery. Other areas hardly got any rain at all, Jacobson reports. At his own farm, he expected to be starting sprinklers by week’s end.

This year marks the fifth time Alberta has sustained serious floods, with the others occurring in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

For farmers hit by flooding this year, AgriInsurance offers production insurance for damage to insured dryland or irrigated crops damaged by excess moisture and flooding, according to Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. AFSC is provincial crown corporation that provides farmers, agribusinesses and other small businesses loans, crop insurance and farm income disaster assistance.

Another program, AgriStability, provides participating farmers with compensation in the event of production shortfalls caused by floods.

The Alberta government has also approved $1 billion as part its first phase of emergency recovery and reconstruction funding for southern Alberta families and communities.

Farmers with damage to crops or pasture should contact AFSC at 1-877-899-2372.

Source: Farm Credit Canada

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