A new grant program to fund grain-dryer improvements is available for Alberta producers who were hit hard by poor weather conditions last season.
The Government of Alberta’s new Efficient Grain Dryer Program (EGDP), announced Feb. 10, will provide a total of $2 million in grants in order to upgrade grain-handling systems.
“Last harvest was one of the toughest for Alberta farmers,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Deven Dreeshen in a press release. “Poor weather, trade irritants, rail strikes and a carbon tax have all hurt farmers – through no fault of their own.”
The program is funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) – a five-year agreement between federal, provincial and territorial governments to commit a total of $3 billion in financial assistance to Canadian agri-food businesses. The partnership is in effect until April 2023.
According to CAP’s website, EGDP will help Alberta grain producers reduce the overall energy usage on their drying operations. The grants will cover 50 per cent of eligible expenses for upgrades, with applicants responsible for the remainder.
“This new program will help farmers remain competitive and keep producing the best high-quality food in the world,” Dreeshen said.
To be eligible for the grant, according to CAP, applicants must produce grain in Alberta and have a current Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) certificate, or a letter of completion from an EFP technician.
The EGDP grants also come with conditions, according to the government – they must only be applied toward upgrades that demonstrate a “significant improvement in energy efficiency,” compared to standard practice.
“These components can be factory options on new equipment or retrofits installed on existing equipment,” said Adrienne South, press secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, in an email to the Rocky View Weekly.
Eligible upgrades, according to CAP, include enclosing a dryer roof or top cover, installing automatic moisture controllers or high-efficiency burners, or fitting insulated plenums, exhaust air recirculation systems or heat exchangers, among others.
Non-eligible modifications range from adding aeration fans and ducts, grain legs, pumps, hopper bins or supplemental bin heaters, or converting handling systems from propane to natural gas.
EGDP will be a boon for Alberta farmers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, given the impact unpredictable weather had on the province’s crops in 2019.
“The season started with a dry spring and [then there was] variable weather over the summer,” South said. “There was a lack of rainfall in the southern and eastern parts of the province and the extreme northern Peace Region, for example, and a long spell of cool, wet weather in other parts of the province.”
According to the latest Alberta Crop Report, about 10 per cent of crops across the province were left in the ground last year and will have to be harvested this spring, instead.
“The remaining crops are now snow-covered with reports of standing crops lying flat, which creates considerable challenges to pick up,” reads a portion of the report, published Dec. 3, 2019. “Swaths are in somewhat better shape, but either way, producers will face losses to both yield and quality, and cleaning up the acres left out in the spring will be no small task.”
According to South, EDGP grants will be retroactive to April 1, 2018 to accommodate nearly 100 applicants who have been waiting since that time, and for those who may not have known about the program and purchased eligible equipment in the last two years.