Peace farmers dealing with aftermath of two heavy rainfall events

"It's got to start drying up here pretty soon are we're going to be in trouble," said Garnet Berge, a farmer in Rolla and director with the BC Grain Producers Association.

He said his crops generally have actually handled the rain fairly well, but the growth in some areas of his fields has been delayed because of the heavy rains.

"If it dries up, the crop will come back up again, but so far every time it tries it gets rained on again," he said. "It potentially could be a week later (maturing) than it would have been if the weather was good. It's really going to depend on what happens with the weather from now until harvest."

Berge added another difficulty is not being able to get out to the fields to spray for weeds or add nutrients. He said he also has things to do around his yard to get ready for harvest in the late summer/early fall, but that has been delayed because the ground is too wet.

"It just compresses everything and makes it tougher to do. We're just losing time now we could have used to have stuff ready to go."

He said if the weather improves, he could be looking at a good crop this year, but if it continues to rain as it has all this week, it will cause all kinds of problems.

"When it gets this wet, it takes very little rain to make it too wet again, so we may be in a situation where we will end up rutting-up the fields and have tough harvest," he said, adding that some crops might not mature fast enough to get them off the fields before the first frost hits.

Berge said he is fortunate he doesn't have a lot of low spots in his fields where water could pool, but he

suspects to the east of him in the Bonanza area of Alberta that has many low-lying areas and heavy clay soils, farmers are probably having a tougher time.

Irmi Critcher, who farms in the Tower Lake area south of Taylor and is also a director of BCGPA, said the latest deluge only added to the problems she was dealing with after the first heavy rainfall event in late June.

"The crops are basically all over the place right now," she said. "Some earlier-seeded crops can handle the moisture better and look fairly good – however, some of the later-seeded stuff is really suffering. You have two fields side-by-side, where the only difference is basically the seeding date, and one looks okay and the other looks terrible."

She said, generally, her wheat and canola got off to an early start and are okay, but her barley fields were seeded later and much of the crop has started to turn yellow due to being waterlogged.

"The immediate concern is the diseases that can develop when conditions persist that way they are now," she added.

Critcher said she sprayed most of her fields in between the two rainfall events, though they had to abandon one field that was too wet. However, she said she heard other farmers did have to forgo spraying entirely, and they will likely experience yield loss due to competition from weeds.

She added the washouts of roads and culverts would have allowed water to seep into fields and submerge them in some cases, and prevented access to fields altogether in other instances. She said the flooding may pose dangers during harvesting as well.

"In the fields you have big gouges and groves being cut by water which are in the crop right now, so when you're harvesting, you really have to watch out for that so you don't hit them, because you could do serious damage to your equipment," said Critcher.

Still, she said if the weather cooperates, farmers could see above-average yields in some areas of their fields will help make up for losses in others.

"Crops – if we ever do get some warm weather – will do a tremendous amount of growing and absorbing moisture. That could translate into some of the damage done being compensated for."

Farmers are always at the whims of Mother Nature, but the last two seasons in the Peace have been especially difficult with severe drought last year and heavy rains this year. Critcher said farmers haven't been fully compensated for last year's losses and are awaiting claims under the federal/provincial AgriStability program to be processed, adding they could be well into this year's harvest before they see any payments. She said the BCGPA has all but given up pursuing relief under the AgriRecovery program, though she can't understand why the region didn't qualify when parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan received compensation following extreme weather events.

"We are feeling the full financial impact of last year's drought now," said Critcher. "We didn't have the inventory to sell, so we have no cash flow at this point because our crop yields were down so much, so we didn't really feel it last fall, but we felt it coming into this spring and summer as all these input costs were coming due."