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Willow Creek MD declares agriculture disaster

The MD of Willow Creek declared an agriculture disaster Wednesday, with drought conditions worsening and reducing crop yields, although some councillors opposed the idea because the declaration carries no other weight than being a symbolic action.

At its July 28 meeting council was advised by chief administrative officer Derrick Krizsan the idea was before council because some interest had been expressed in discussing it.

Reeve Maryanne Sandberg said the declaration does nothing.

“There’s no legal weight to it whatsoever,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg also noted AgriRecovery, a joint federal-provincial program, is already looking at it.

“I don’t know what we should be doing as an MD,” Sandberg said.

“What can we do?” Coun. John Van Driesten added.

Coun. Glen Alm said it lets the ratepayers know council understands that it is a problem, and shows council is doing everything it possibly can.

Coun. Ian Sundquist said the MD of Willow Creek is already included in the federal map of affected areas.

Sundquist also had trouble with the word “disaster” because this is a drought, not a disaster.

A declaration would not get the MD of Willow Creek any advantage.

Sandberg asked Krizsan how many ratepayers asked for the declaration, and replied about a handful.

Van Driesten said this year is a reality check for farming dry land, where they count on rain.

Coun. Evan Berger said the declaration is essentially a title assigned ro what is happening.

Berger observed some good crops and some bad crops in the municipality, and noted this year’s conditions are something producers go through every few years.

Berger said it was definitely a problem but hopefully everyone carried some form of insurance.

“I don’t see any downside in declaring an agriculture disaster,” Alm said, adding the upside is showing the ratepayers they are doing something.

Sundquist said there are programs in place for producers to put aside money for years such as this, and could not see declaring a disaster when this is not one.

Coun. Darry Markle said disaster implies crop failure.

“There’s still crop out there,” Markle said.

Markle added declaring an agriculture disaster informs the general public there is a problem.

Sandberg said bad crops are spotty, and wondered if you declared a disaster in all of the municipal district or just parts of it.

Sandberg then asked what the agricultural fieldman’s recommendation is.

Krizsan said there could be approaching 50 per cent of crops rated poor which, according to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, is the threshold for a disaster or emergency.

Sandberg said the Counties of Foothills and Vulcan, who neighbour Willow Creek MD, have declared an agriculture disaster.

Markle said no one was actually asking for anything.

“It’s just a declaration,” Markle said, that things are bad now.

Council agreed to declare an agriculture disaster with everyone voting in favour except Sundquist and Van Driesten who were opposed.

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