Agriculture industry dependent on environment, economy

Environmental and weather conditions are going to be a major driving factor for the agricultural industry...

Environmental and weather conditions are going to be a major driving factor for the agricultural industry in the County of Wetaskiwin this spring and summer.

Crops

Steve Majek, director of agricultural services with the county, says dryness is a huge concern.

“People are getting itchy because the weather’s so nice and people want to get out in the field.” He added Alberta is prone to frost in early May, so there are pros and cons to getting out in the field and seeding too early.

The persistent spring winds, lack of rain and the mild winter have all contributed to the possibility of a drought this year.

“I would hope for our producers we would have moisture at the right time, whether that’s a dry summer or not. We got moisture at the right time last year,” said Majek.

Majek says despite the dry conditions last year the weather and crops were, for the most part, able to pull through in the end with producers bringing in 70 to 90 per cent of their yield, although the quality was not what some where hoping for.

“You can’t take away the importance of rain but dew does help,” said Majek. “Last year we had a nice heavy dew.”

With pastures to potentially grow more slowly because of the dryness producers may have to choose to feed their livestock longer or turn them out now and then start to feed again earlier at the end of the season. Majek says there is no guaranteed choice for success and it is all about individual management styles.

“The concern always is… is there enough moisture to produce enough feed for your animals?” noted Majek.

He added there are concerns of a feed shortage. “In 2015 we did have producers purchase feed from outside the area.”

Historically, the County of Wetaskiwin is an exporter of agricultural commodities. “Very rarely are we an importer. Last year more food was brought in than what was produced,” said Majek.

With the winter offering below average precipitation there is also the issue of water availability. Majek says some producers are already asking about pumping equipment to fill their dugouts. The problem partially stems from last year’s frost not being deep enough and the little moisture there was all soaking into the ground.

As per usual the most planted crops across the county will be the traditional barely, wheat, oats and canola; as well as some faba beans and potato. “I don’t expect that will change. We’re used to growing those crops, we’re comfortable growing those crops,” said Majek.

He explains one dry year is not going to make farmers completely change their operations; and most do not have the cash flow needed to switch the crops and equipment.

The drier weather will help combat the crop disease cycle, says Majek. “Most like more moisture.”

“The drier weather brings grasshoppers. We’ll have more the insects as opposed to the disease cycle,” he added.

Livestock

Where livestock are concerned Majek says areas such as the beef market seem to be holding well.

Looking onward, Majek believes the future of agriculture is trans-pacific partnerships. “Having those countries open up for Canadian markets would be a blessing for us.”

However, stringent markets with barely-achievable expectations could pose problems for producers to move forward and actually take advantage of the international opportunities.

“Agriculture boils down to do you have the in market for what you’re producing and if you do you’re successful,” said Majek.

Industry expansion

The Government of Canada says farmland values have risen 10 per cent in the last year. Majek says he is not sure what direct impact the government’s statement will have on county producers but since 1999 the value of land in the county has increased.

Majek says at the turn of the century land was between $1,500 and $2,700 per acre. Now it is closer to $3,800 to $4,000 per acre. “We do know there’s some that sold for over $5,000.”

He added the market is not necessarily expanding and it is a complicated issue. For those looking to sell the increased value is a plus, as they will get more for the land.

It is common for those who own and work farms to have another off-site job to subsidize the operation. Majek says right now many of those, especially if they worked in the oilfield industry, now do not have the extra income and will not be able to expand their operations.

Majek also explained there is another side; the average age of farmers across the province is 57 years and there are some who are established enough to be able to expand their operations, buy more land and bring the next generations of their families into the industry.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Advocate file image
Red Deer COVID cases continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

A SAGA member (left) poses as Jessi Hanks (right) with Castle Restaurant puts up a safe space sticker to display on the restaurant’s front door. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
SAGA Wetaskiwin works with local businesses to display they are a safe space

The safe space stickers show that its a safe and inclusive space.

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta Appeal Court orders 3rd trial for parents in toddler’s meningitis death

Stephans were accused of not seeking medical attention sooner for Ezekiel, who had meningitis when he died

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Most Read