Posted on Jul 16, 2021
ALBERTA’S NDP CALLED FOR IMMEDIATE SUPPORTS TO HELP FARMERS WITH UNPRECEDENTED DROUGHT
CALGARY - Alberta’s NDP is demanding all claims for crop loss and damage due to a record heatwave and massive drought be settled this year to support farmers and ranchers who did so much to get this province through the pandemic.
Damaged crops are insured through Agriculture Financial Services Corporation; however UCP budget cuts have resulted in AFSC eliminating 69 full-time jobs and closing five rural offices in High Prairie, High River, Rimbey, Smoky Lake and Spirit River. Those satellite offices were established to provide quicker service and assessment of damage to their respective regions.
"I have heard from farmers across the province that they've already seen the impact of UCP cuts to AFSC staffing,” said NDP Agriculture Critic Heather Sweet. “Far too many claims are left waiting nearly a year for compensation. That cannot happen this year, especially not with the major destruction we are seeing."
To address the current delays and future increase in demand on the AFSC, Alberta's NDP is calling for the immediate rehiring of all laid off AFSC staff as well as the consideration of an Emergency Crop Assessment Task Force to ensure that every single claim from this year's drought is settled and paid out by the end of this year.
"I want to be clear that the expectation used to be that all claims were settled in the same year,” Sweet said. “Last year's massive hailstorm in June also caused significant crop damage, and I am aware of claims that were still being paid out. We need to bring back that expectation of rapid assessment and settlement and do it this year, as our agriculture producers deal with unprecedented challenges."
Sweet noted that Alberta’s agriculture sector stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These producers kept store shelves stoked and allowed us to put food on our tables,” Sweet said. “They were there when we needed them and now they need help. We cannot cripple our agricultural sector, not when it’s such a critical piece of Alberta’s economic future.”