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Lac La Biche County declares state of agricultural disaster

On Tuesday, council voted against recommendations from the County’s Environmental Services Department and declared a state of agricultural disaster.
Lac La Biche County and the County of St. Paul have now declared states of agricultural disaster amid a hot, dry summer.

LAC LA BICHE - In a surprise turn of events, Lac La Biche County council voted unanimously in favour of declaring a state of agricultural disaster on Tuesday. This decision came on the heels of a presentation and report by the County’s manager of environmental services and agricultural fieldman recommending a state of disaster not be declared.  

What led to the unexpected decision was most likely related to additional information brought forward by Coun. George L’Heureux, which resulted in council  temporarily moving into an impromptu closed session to discuss the matter further. Comments made before the conversation went private alluded to the topic of international trade. 

When council returned, the collective decision swung opposite from administration’s recommendation and a declaration of a state of agricultural disaster was approved.   

Mayor Omer Moghrabi said this move does not require further action from the municipality, but it does send a clear message to federal and provincial government leaders that the region has been hit hard by the extreme heat and dry conditions experienced in late June stretching into mid-July. 

A not-so-surprising surprise 

The potential for calling a state of disaster was already on councillors’ minds. On July 23, the topic was discussed during a special council meeting.  

At that point, council had decided to hold off on a decision until more data could be gathered and conversations between nearby municipalities and their agricultural fieldman could take place.  

Since then, the County of St. Paul declared a state of agricultural disaster on July 27, whereas the MD of Bonnyville council has, for now, voted against a declaration of disaster. Throughout the province, several other municipalities, especially those in the southern and central belt, have also declared a state of agricultural disaster. 

Conflicting perspectives 

During the council meeting, Molly Fyten, Lac La Biche County’s environmental services manager told council that based on the available precipitation data collected from weather stations in Rich Lake and in Lac La Biche, field inspections and interaction with agricultural producers carried out on July 23 and 24, conditions in the region do not support a state of agricultural disaster. 

Fyten said that more than 100 grain crop fields in the Craigend, Hylo, Venice, Elinor Lake and Rich Lake area had been inspected by Agricultural Fieldman Jacob Marfo and a weed inspector to assess any potential drought effect on grain crops and crop staging.  

Marfo’s inspection found that more than 95 per cent of fields in the Lac La Biche County are in excellent condition with no apparent drought induced stress. She added that interaction with some local growers did not indicate any drought concern as most fields have fully recovered from the heat wave that occurred earlier this summer. 

However, the report did note that during the two-day inspection, hay fields could not be assessed as they had already undergone the first cut of the season.  

But, it is hay crop yields that are the greatest concern for Coun. L’Heureux. Before the meeting transitioned into closed talks, he referenced low hay yields that will unlikely meet the demand of local cattle ranchers over the winter months.  

L’Heureux also points to the longer lasting and trickle-down effects of a poor growing season. He says prolonged heat suffered earlier this season has translated to exorbitant and growing costs of hay, which is likely to only get more costly for producers seeking animal feed.  

“We need to show our producer that we support them,” said L’Heureux. 

More information on this story will be updated at 

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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