County of Stettler council says AgriRecovery program will fight drought

The County of Stettler is calling on the Government of Alberta to bring back a popular and effective agriculture program that the municipality feels will address the effects of drought on its producers. The discussion was held at the Aug. 9 regular meeting of council.

Coun. Les Stulberg, himself a producer in the Byemoor Endiang region of the County of Stettler, related to his peers he recently got a call from a ratepayer who was concerned about the lack of livestock feed caused by this summer’s drought.

The ratepayer was also concerned about the inflated prices of feed available to producers and this ratepayer was wondering what programs the government had in place to address this issue.

At previous council and Agriculture Services Board (ASB) meetings councillors have discussed the pressure that rising feed costs are placing on producers and the effects that pressure may have on the future of the County of Stettler’s agriculture community.

Stulberg stated he spoke to this ratepayer twice and the producer suggested perhaps instead of a feed subsidy support programs could instead focus on helping with transportation costs.

It’s also been mentioned that other parts of the country have more feed available but the cost of transport makes it prohibitive in some cases to purchase the feed.

Stulberg noted he recollected the County of Stettler has already sent a letter to the Government of Alberta about a transportation subsidy and was wondering if the municipality received a response.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy responded to the best of her knowledge the only program brought in recently to help producers with the effects of drought is AgriStability and she didn’t have all of the details of that program with her.

Cassidy added that she understood producers were more keen on a program called AgriRecovery, which paid a certain dollar amount per head that could be used for feed, water, transportation or other expenses and was much more popular with producers.

Cassidy stated the County of Stettler has received no notification that AgriRecovery has been instituted.

Coun. Stulberg noted it’s his understanding if a feed subsidy is offered, the price of feed climbs even more. However, if a subsidy for transportation costs is offered prices may stabilize because trucking costs don’t fluctuate as much.

Stulberg stated he felt a lot of producers would love to see a transportation subsidy.

“It would be nice because a lot of feed is probably going to have to be moved into the area,” said Stulberg, adding that perhaps the County of Stettler could do a follow-up to find out what effect the municipality’s letter of request has had.

During discussion it was stated that AgriStability focuses more on a guaranteed price for livestock and assists with interest on loans.

Coun. Justin Stevens asked if producers were aware that, in these current drought conditions, they could apply to hook up to the County of Stettler’s water network.

The CAO stated that, yes, producers are aware because some producers are already submitting applications to the County of Stettler to hook-up to the municipal network as a source of water.

In fact the Aug. 9 meeting agenda held two such application, both noting the application required a $15,000 hook-up fee.

Councillors unanimously approved a resolution to send another letter, this one to Drumheller Stettler MLA Nate Horner, and the Agriculture ministry, requesting the AgriRecovery program be re-opened.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review