Minister of Agriculture says Verboven got it wrong

Oneil Carlier says Bill 202 dead; Verboven says not necessarily

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to an (opinion column) in your newspaper that appeared in the January 26, 2018 issue of The Stettler Independent with the headline “Bill 202 looks like a good idea … but intent seems to exclude commercial agriculture.” While I appreciate the writer’s interest in local food, I would like to respectfully point out that the premise of the story is incorrect. The article referenced Private Member Bill 202, Alberta Local Food Act, introduced in 2015, by Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Estefania Cortes-Vargas. That bill will not come forward to the legislature for a final reading.

However, we are always exploring ways to connect Alberta consumers and the producers of the fine food we have in this province. I recently conducted a number of roundtables with agriculture stakeholders in Leduc, Lethbridge, Airdrie and Grande Prairie to explore ways we can do that through existing policies, like Alberta Farmers’ Markets Program – the only program of its kind in Canada – and Explore Local Program. Both these programs will continue to be focused on connecting producers of Alberta’s beef, pork, potatoes, barley, canola, and other food products with consumers in all corners of our province.

I also would like to respectfully point out that Agriculture and Forestry is continuing the important work of the former Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency. I am proud of the work the former agency did that’s why we continue to deliver it, including the funding as referenced here …. “$30 million the Department of Agriculture saved from cutbacks it made to development and research grants to commercial agriculture.”

It is vitally important to our government that Alberta Agriculture continues to promote our word class agricultural products -whether they are marketed directly to consumers or not -to Albertans, and to the rest of the world.

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture

Response from opinion columnist Will Verboven

Further to Bill 202: Like all legislation that is not passed within a current legislative session, Bill 202 died on the order paper. Many government bills that ran out of time are revived under different numbers in the next legislative session and have to undergo the procedural process again. The Minister recently concluded public consultations on the Alberta Local Food Act which is what Bill 202 represented – that would presume that the government remains interested in such legislation. There is every likelihood that a revived Bill 202.1 could be tabled in the upcoming legislative session. However, it would seem the embarrassment this bill has caused the government in its intent to disparage commercial agriculture that a new bill will not be accepted for legislative action – at least not before the next election.

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