“Alberta’s agriculture industry is one of our key economic drivers and is part of the fabric of our culture. Every day, without fail, Alberta’s hard-working farmers, ranchers and agri-food producers deliver food to our tables.

“The last three years have brought droughts and water shortages in various parts of the province, particularly southern Alberta. Most of the water we use to drink, grow crops, run our businesses and sustain our environment comes from the mountain snowpack as well as spring and summer rain. With El Niño bringing warmer winter temperatures and less precipitation, we know this brings the potential for continued drought conditions this upcoming growing season.

“Alberta’s government is here to lend a hand to our agriculture and agri-food industries, which not only produce the best food in the world but also employ thousands of Albertans.

“Our long-term vision includes expanding and improving our irrigation system so producers can position the agriculture industry to lead the province’s economic growth and diversification.

“Irrigation is essential to farmers, ranchers, food processors and communities because it provides much-needed water and good jobs. That’s why we have invested $933 million to expand and modernize irrigation in the province and why we provided $7 million to investigate the feasibility of a large-scale irrigation project in east-central Alberta.

“While we continue to pursue this vision of increased irrigation, a key issue remains with the lack of rain and snow. We need to do more with the water we have. I commend Alberta’s irrigation districts that have, over the past year, taken steps to manage water use.

“We’re all in this together as we prepare for the 2024 growing season. To all Albertans, I encourage you to make an effort to better understand your role in conserving water. Know that the water you might use to water your lawn could be used downstream to grow the crops that produce your food.

“We have our producers’ backs this upcoming growing season. We have established a drought command team, which is working on a drought emergency plan. Our government has held meetings with communities, farmers, ranchers, businesses and others to prepare for potential ongoing drought conditions and will be continuing this in the days to come.

“Risk management programs through Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), such as Moisture Deficiency Insurance (MDI), continue to be the first line of defence for disaster situations such as drought. By participating in these programs, producers can gain peace of mind and be better prepared for unexpected challenges. MDI offers insurance coverage on native, improved, bush or community pasture, and provided $326.5 million to producers facing dry conditions in 2023. Over the last few years, we have been working with the AFSC to improve the program, such as including extreme temperatures. I’d like to remind producers that they can enrol for MDI until the last day of February.

“Farming and ranching can be stressful, and there are many factors that producers cannot control, including drought conditions. If you or someone you know is feeling the effects of stress on the farm, it is important to seek help and there are several resources available. AgKnow, the Alberta Farm Mental Health Network, connects farmers and their families to local service providers and resources designed for the agriculture industry.

“We are working together, monitoring the situation and preparing as best as we can to ensure our farmers and ranchers are in the best position heading into this year.”

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