Just under 90 per cent of all crops were harvested across Alberta in 2019, according to the province’s final crop report for the year — a drop from the past two years.
The final province-wide report shows 89.6 per cent of all crops were harvested as of Dec. 3. That’s close to a five-per-cent drop from the final 2018 numbers, which finished at 94.7 per cent of all crops harvested as of Oct. 30, 2018. In 2017, that number was 98.6 per cent.
The hardest-hit areas this year were the Peace and Northeast portions of the province at 67.7 per cent and 86.9 per cent, respectively. The southern part of the province saw the highest percentage combined at 97.6 per cent.
The weekly reports are produced by the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) alongside Alberta Agriculture through surveys submitted by on-farm inspectors and fieldmen. Jackie Sanden, an insurance product coordinator with AFSC, said weather across the province played the biggest role in this year’s crop production. Southern and eastern Alberta had a lack of rainfall while the rest of the province had too much.
“The fall season saw cold temperatures, untimely snow and excess moisture resulting in much frustration for producers,” Sanden said in an email statement.
Christi Friesen, a farmer in Peace County, said that while a series of fortunate decisions and favourable locations within the county made it possible for her to harvest all of her crops, she’s seen the frustrating year affect her neighbours.
“I know for a lot of people, they haven’t ever combined into December,” said Friesen. “Then you enter in all the market prices and everything else, too. You enter in the trade with China and how that affected canola and all things political. It takes a toll.”
The lower yield came after a year of weather warnings and declarations of agricultural disasters across north and central Alberta as farmers were left with drowned-out crops. Friesen sits on the agricultural service board for her local municipal district, and they, too, had to declare an agricultural disaster.
“There are some farmers that I’ve talked to for whom cash flow is a huge issue right now,” said Friesen. “Their money that they use to pay bills is still out in the field. So that is kind of one of the bigger aspects that are taking a toll on some farmers. Some farmers have the attitude that ‘we’ve done this before and we’ll do it. We’ll be fine.’”
Sanden said it’s difficult to predict if 2020 will be a bounce-back year as Alberta waits to see what type of weather the growing and harvesting seasons will bring. Recent reports produced by the federal government predict climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and violent storms across the country, impacting the vulnerability of producers.