The annual Ponoka County Agricultural Service Board (ASB) year-end report, presented to councilors, reiterated that the county’s agricultural practices and health remain in good standing despite minor challenges 2013 brought.
Over the year, ASB managed to fully operate and come out $124,390 under budget, which was set at $890,822.
The Hawkweed program budget alone sat at $60,000 but came back at just under $65,000.
A report submitted to council’s Jan. 21 meeting by Shayne Steffen, manager of agricultural services, states blasting counts for approximately $1000 to $2000 of the board’s yearly income. Spraying brings in $500 to $1000 and rentals reap between $500 and $600.
The county and ASB have decided to continue the rental service of sprayers, cattle equipment, traps, planters, spreaders and tag readers but they’re cracking down on those who don’t clean the equipment before retuning it.
Historically, if equipment was returned unclean, the renter forfeits their deposit. However, county CAO Charlie Cutforth feels another course of action could prove more affective. If it becomes a problem on an individual basis, the county reserves the right to no longer rent equipment to those people.
In 2013, a total of 29 weed notices were issued, all enforcements were on absentee landowners. The spray program touched 745 km along roadsides but the spring’s wet weather and high winds made the herbicide applications difficult.
Across the divisions, the county is experiencing problems with Toadflax, Canada Thistle, Perennial Sow Thistle, Ox-eye daisy, Scentless Chamomile, Leafy Spurge, Field Scabious, Common Tansy, White Cockle, Bull Thistle, Orange and Yellow Hawkweed, and Tall Buttercup.
In 2013 Absinth wormwood was upgraded to be classified as a noxious weed.
Along with spraying during the wet spring, 62 county roadside miles were seeded — some reseeded due to washouts — with a blend of Fleet Meadow Brome, Boreal Creeping Red Fescue and Orchard Grass.
Other problem species and pests encountered during 2013 included three confirmed coyote predations, Wild Boar found in areas south of Rimbey while a suspected herd was spotted northwest of Ponoka by the Ponoka Fish and Game Association. As a declared pest at large, all Wild Boar seen within the county are ordered to be destroyed.
As a part of the Beaver Control Farmland and Infrastructure Protection program, 165 beavers were removed last year.
Grasshoppers were not an issue in 2013, however ASB will continue to monitor weather patterns for a severe outbreak in 2014.
Grant allocations remain the same as last year, under the new three-year agreement signed with Alberta Agriculture. A minimum of $150,000 has been allocated to Ponoka County for this grant cycle.