WHEREAS much of the northwest region of Alberta has seen excessive moisture over the past three years; and
WHEREAS harvesting, seeding, and spraying operations have been severely disrupted over the past three years, creating stress and financial difficulty for many farmers; and
WHEREAS the declaration of a state of agricultural disaster by a municipality does not provide additional supports for farmers in the affected area;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request that the Government of Alberta review supports for farmers when a state of agricultural disaster is formally declared within a municipality; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request that the Government of Alberta develop additional programs to enhance support to farmers when a state of agricultural disaster is declared; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request that the Government of Alberta take a regional approach to declaring agricultural disasters such that they can be initiated within a region of Alberta where several municipalities have declared a state of agricultural disaster to allow for the release of reserve funds for farmers in that region.
In the spring and summer of 2020, thirteen municipalities declared a state of agricultural disaster. Excessive moisture for the previous two years devastated agriculture within the area, with precipitation in some areas being 150% of the long-term average in 2020 alone (the most precipitation seen in the past sixty years). For some municipalities, such as Leduc County, it was the second consecutive year that a state of agricultural disaster was declared.
A municipal declaration is a way for municipal governments to raise awareness of the severity of the situation with the general public through the media; however, a declaration does not provide additional support to the farmers who are dealing with unseeded acres, lost crop, or lack of feed for livestock.
The Rural Municipalities of Alberta had developed A Guide for Declaring Municipal Agricultural Disasters in Alberta. The guide was created to assist municipalities in the difficult decision on whether to declare an agricultural disaster. This document has been helpful in creating consistency in when and how a municipality should declare a state of agricultural disaster.
Although municipal declarations bring awareness to an issue in a specific area of the province, it does nothing to trigger a provincial declaration, nor allow access to any funding to support the farmers that are experiencing extreme hardship. Farmers are only provided access to disaster support funds of the Government of Alberta declares a provincial state of agricultural disaster. This decision is made by Cabinet and although it may use municipal declarations to inform its decision-making, the decision is made with respect to the province as a whole.
It is appreciated that the Government of Alberta must make decisions with respect to the entire province. It would be an extremely rare and serious situation if the entire province suffered an agricultural disaster; it is more common that specific regions within Alberta will experience adverse conditions that would warrant a declaration of disaster. If the Government of Alberta were able to declare a region of the province as an area of agricultural disaster, this should allow for the release of reserve funds to aid farmers in that region.
RMA Guide for Declaring Municipal Agricultural Disasters https://rmalberta.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/RMA-Guide-for-Declaring-Municipal-Agriculture-Disasters.pdf
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.