New Years resolutions to re-energize the ag sector in Alberta

Revamping ‘Right to Farm’ legislation would be a great start

Your humble columnist has created a few resolutions for the Alberta government, or the next government-in-waiting to embrace. My view is that if diversifying the economy is a goal, the first step would be to address current issues and create policies that actually encourage development. Some of that may be a back-to-the-future approach. It’s also a human nature approach – trust and respect people, give them incentive and genuine support and watch things happen. The agriculture community has always responded well to that approach. Some of them don’t even cost much money.

2018 Resolutions, or Dreams and Schemes for Agriculture in Alberta

• Revamp existing Right to Farm Legislation and develop new and updated rights with legal teeth. Include at its base honest and clear property rights. The first step would be to ask producer groups what they want in the legislation – they are the actual farmers/ranchers and are the experts.

• Make the entire agriculture and agri-food processing industries exempt from carbon taxes and not just the greenhouse sector. The Alberta ag industry is at present at a competitive disadvantage with BC and Saskatchewan carbon tax exemptions for agriculture.

• Place a moratorium on the imposition of a per head tax on feedlot/intensive ag operations by any county or municipality pending a resolution that both sides can agree upon.

• Make an immediate commitment that cutbacks to livestock industry development and crop industry development grants will only be 50 per cent. The size of the cutback should be reflective of what cutback percentages are occurring in other departments. Have both programs supervised and directed by industry dominated committees or agencies not bureaucrats.

• Provide the AgCoalition producer safety group with a $500,000 grant to do comparative research and develop alternatives and options for the new farm worker OHS, WCB and labour standards that address the genuine realities of the workaday reality of ag production.

• Make a commitment that all government departments, agencies and any entity receiving government funding must purchase Alberta grown/processed food and beverage products from Alberta sources, and not from BC. The BC government has a similar buy BC program for its agencies and clients that discriminates against Alberta products.

• Commit to supporting through whatever means the construction of an major industrial sized biodigeter facility in the Lethbridge area. It would need to satisfy the waste disposal needs of all organic material produced by the livestock, poultry and agri-food processing industry and from municipal sources.

• Commit to releasing and selling public lands anywhere in Alberta that have any potential to be developed for agricultural, irrigation and grazing purposes. Provide tax credits and grants to clear land in north central areas of the province. Ask producer groups for specifics on such expansion.

• Initiate discussions at the federal level as to allowing dairy and poultry quota purchases with transfers to occur between provinces. This could see the development of new major commercial sized dairy and poultry operations in southern Alberta.

• Make a formal commitment that farmers/ranchers/land owners will be paid for ecological goods and services. Set up an agency to immediately find ways and means to implement such a program which would include incentives to increase endangered species on private property.

• Commit to creating a Marijuana/Hemp Industry development council with policy that provides incentives and tax credits to encourage that industry to further establish and expand that business in Alberta

• Commit to resolve surface rights issues particularly with delinquent well site fees and rental. Perhaps a total review and revamping of surface rights policy and regulations that affects landowners is in order. Let affected groups create the policy for negotiation with the energy industry.

• Commit to an unbiased, and science and economic based review of the impact and damage of windmills on land owners, the environment, wildlife, utility costs and the aesthetics of the industrial scale development of that business.

Space prevents me from adding even more ideas. But here is the real game changer idea. Government and political parties should initiate policies that formally includes producer group involvement and approval in developing any regulations, expansion or legislation that affects their sector. That power now rests in the hands of senior Ag department bureaucrats – it needs to be taken away from them and given to producer groups who have the expertise. There is a glimmer of hope – new tentative public land grazing lease fees and rules have been carried out in an enlightened manner between producer groups and the government. It can all happen – just trust the people who can make it happen. Happy New Year.

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