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Prairie farmers pray for rain as drought, grasshoppers ravage crops and pastures

Last Updated Jul 15, 2021 at 1:00 pm MDT

A combine harvests soybeans in rural Blair, Neb., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nati Harnik

CALGARY — Farmers are calling for emergency relief as drought ravages crops across the Prairie provinces.

Scorching temperatures and little to no rainfall have left crops in poor condition across wide swaths of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In some areas, grasshoppers have infested fields. Several municipalities have declared states of agricultural disaster.

Ranchers are also in trouble. Pastures are parched and hay and forage is scarce. The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association says some ranchers are running out of hay to feed their cattle. They say these ranchers may be forced to sell off up to 40 per cent of their herds before winter.

The government of Saskatchewan has already announced some drought relief. It will allow grain farmers with crop insurance to write off damaged crops. Cattle ranchers will then be able to go in and salvage what they can for feed. Saskatchewan is also providing more funding for water projects like wells and dugouts.

But some farmers say it won’t be enough. They say they will be talking to the federal government about disaster assistance. The province of Alberta says it is also lobbying for federal aid for farmers.

This summer’s drought follows multiple consecutive years of below-normal precipitation in many parts of farm country. Farm groups say rain is desperately needed but for some crops the damage is already done.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press