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.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
AF appreciates the hardship farmers face in areas where a State of Agricultural Disaster is declared. As such, Alberta has in place a suite of business risk management (BRM) programs – Agrilnsurance, AgriStability, and Agrilnvest – that responds to various events, including market and price disruptions and production losses. Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) administers these programs in Alberta.
AFSC reviews BRM programs in a municipality when a state of agricultural disaster is declared. The review is regional in scope, and indicated by participation rates for producers in existing BRM programs. After determining participation rates of farmers in alternate programs, AFSC may adjust their procedures to provide quicker, targeted support for producers in the declared region. AFSC maintains a high standard of timeliness when processing applications, and in doing so, delivers payments promptly to its clients. Payment delivery varies and may come through different mechanisms (e.g. AgriStability interim payments et or Agrilnsurance advances).
Producers affected by extreme weather events express the importance of BRM programs to AFSC. This year, in response to excessive moisture in northern Alberta, AFSC introduced a one-time hail premium rebate initiative. Producers insured under AFSC’s Hail Endorsement or Straight Hail Insurance, who had non-viable acres due to excessive moisture, were eligible to have their 2020 hail premiums refunded. AFSC also extended their enrolment deadline for AgriStability. AFSC continues to improve their suite of programs to provide greater flexibility for producers. If a significant event occurs that the existing programs are unable to respond to and extraordinary expenses are incurred, the government may use the AgriRecovery Framework to assess the need for a regional response.
At this time, there are no plans to establish programs outside of the existing suite of programs. In addition, there are no specific reserve funds or plans for reserve funding beyond the current funding allocation to the BRM programs. The government does have the ability to respond to regional issues through the AgriRecovery Framework, if there are extraordinary costs and it is determined the size and the scope of the event is large enough and beyond the producers’ ability to manage using the existing programs.
A comprehensive review of BRM programming, primarily focusing on AgriStability is ongoing across Canada, and was discussed recently at the federal, provincial, and territorial agriculture ministers’ meeting. As part of this review, Canada’s agriculture ministers are working to find solutions and have outlined several objectives for the BRM suite, including:
In addition to the BRM programs that are available, producers have access to other programs delivered by Alberta under the Canadian Agriculture Partnership agreement. These programs may assist with longer-term on-farm solutions and agricultural stewardship. Descriptions of these programs can be found at cap.alberta.ca/CAP/Programs.
RMA appreciates the explanation of the various programs available to farmers through Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) and how a review of these programs is triggered after a declaration of agricultural disaster. The explanation of these programs notes that AFSC does include a regional component to their review. However, the resolution calls for a Government of Alberta review of existing programs, which the resolution response does not commit to. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s response goes on to indicate there are no plans to establish new programs to support farmers when an agricultural disaster is declared.
2021 saw an increase in the number of municipal declarations of agricultural disasters. Due to the conditions in much of Alberta, the Government of Alberta and AFSC have announced several new assistance measures, including reducing crop insurance premiums. RMA appreciates these initiatives to support farmers, however, because they are not tied to municipal agricultural disaster declarations, these changes do not address the nature of this resolution.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate for support for the agricultural sector in response to states of agricultural disaster.