March 5th, 2024

Year in Review: Drought concerns and effects dominate agricultural highlights in southeast Alberta

By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 29, 2023.

A lack of moisture forcing producers through another year of drought conditions led the way in agriculture stories for southeast Alberta.--NEWS PHOTO SAMANTHA JOHNSON

reporter@medicinehatnews.com

January

– White Nose Syndrome, a fatal bat fungus, makes first appearance in Alberta, which has potential catastrophic consequences for agriculture as bats provide vital pest control each year.

February

– Canada’s egg industry defended practices that keep egg supply stable for consumers and avoids price spikes seen in other countries. Avian influenza, supply chain issues, soaring feed, fuel and packaging costs have affected egg production and processing costs in Canada over the past year.

– Alberta Government introduces a new tax credit program to attract investment and agriculture.

– Cypress County concerned about loss of agricultural production to renewable power development and joins other counties to lobby provincial government for more authority when proposals go to the utility regulators for approval.

– The sold-out Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference is hosted at the Wilder Institute.

– The use of drone technology in agriculture is projected to grow to a $28-billion market.

March

– Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Nate Horner holds roundtable to deny claims of crop insurance prices rising by 60%.

– Producers in region are looking forward to a good start to the season after the long winter and a substantial buildup of snowpack.

April

– Dunmore Equestrian holds town hall to update its long-awaited indoor event centre.

– New RBC report states 40% of current farm operators will retire by 2033.

– 140 grain inspectors are part of the strike by Canada’s largest public-sector union and fears arise over impact in terms of crops to be exported and money coming in for farmers.

– The Western Canadian Lamb Cooperative is created to give producers a fair market prices for livestock.

May

– Seeding in the region is behind average pace due to cool temperatures, with pasture and hay land also being affected.

– Cattle prices rise to levels not seen since the mid-2010s while crop prices fall below record pricing seen in 2022.

– The Do More Agriculture Foundation launches the #TalkItOUt campaign focusing on mental health discussions with farmers and producers.

– After a slow start, seeding is one-third complete by mid-May in southern Alberta with pasture regions rated at 55 per cent good and 34 per cent fair.

– S3 Group, an agriculture equipment company, announces in June it is buying a 16,000 square-foot facility in Medicine Hat and plans to create a manufacturing and engineering hub.

– Moisture levels in southern Alberta are ranging from moderately to very low according to crop report, with land from Cold Lake through to Medicine Hat and Lethbridge experiencing a once-in-50-years dry spell.

– Groundbreaking ceremony takes place at Dunmore Equestrian for new indoor arena.

July

– Cypress County declares a local agricultural disaster again with soil moisture levels reported as low to moderately low compared to averages over the past 50 years.

– Some regional producers turn heat stunted crops into cattle feed and a heat wave coming through in late July makes the situation worse.

– Dunmore Equestrian holds second annual Heritage Gather Festival with camping free of charge and more prize money on offer.

– MLA of Taber-Warner Grant Hunter is appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Agrifood Development.

– Hilda holds centennial celebration.

August

– The continuing drought results in a shortage of irrigation water and growers must cope with rationing. Cooler spring conditions cause a shorter window to get the crops in, but with not enough rain following seeding and an explosion in the grasshopper population, the growing season on dry land is disastrous.

– The AgriStability Program deadline is extended from spring to late September due to wildfires and extreme dry conditions, although improvements are needed to make the program more relevant for the cow-calf sector.

– Cypress County welcomes six-month moratorium on renewable energy facility approvals.

– Cypress County urges residents to conserve water and implements first stage of Drought Management Plan.

September

– An early shutdown of irrigation in the Eastern Irrigation District due to low water levels in Lake Newell. St. Mary’s Irrigation District reduces volume of deliveries early in the month and shuts down by the end of September.

October

– The S3 Group welcomes Premier Danielle Smith and Mayor Linnsie Clark to new facility that will employ 100 people to assemble motor and drying equipment for grain bins.

– Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions amalgamated into Alberta Grains, which represents 18,000 grain farmers.

November

– Prices of crops and livestock softens, although several crops remain higher than five-year averages.

– First Cypress County Ag Connections Conference well attended and received.

December

-News of a projected warm winter with little snowfall adds to serious drought concerns heading into 2024.

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