WHEREAS agricultural service boards are dealing with a greatly increased demand for services from agriculture producers;AND WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (AAFRD) has closed many of its District Offices and moved personnel out of the rural areas in which they served, leading to a situation in which local access to AAFRD is limited and no longer visible to many agriculture producers who are now using the agricultural service boards to access information, support, and services;AND WHEREAS ASB staff have been requested by various AAFRD branches to assist them in numerous areas that were previously handled by District AAFRD staff, such as Bertha Army Worm survey and trap monitoring, Lygus Bug counts, crop reports, grasshopper sampling, etc.; AND WHEREAS recent drought conditions have significantly increased the demands placed on agricultural service boards for support in providing information and direction to agricultural producers regarding provincial funding and assistance programs;AND WHEREAS the threat of Fusarium graminearum infestation and the implementation of the Alberta Fusarium Graminearum Management Plan has necessitated involvement of agricultural service boards in inspection and enforcement matters, in addition to further information support;AND WHEREAS current agricultural service board grant funding is not sufficient to address the issues that are required by AAFRD, or the increased public requests that have occurred due to the loss of the AAFRD district offices, and many rural municipalities lack the private industry resources necessary to address the information void created by the loss of AAFRD in rural communities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development to increase the amount of the agricultural service board grant funding, to realistically and equitably represent the increased duties that are expected by, or come as a result of, AAFRD office closures and/or AAFRD policy or legislative changes.
Agricultural Service Board basic grants have been in place since 1945. This basic grant was put in place to assist municipalities in carrying out projects and developing programs and services that protect or improve agricultural production capability. As stated in the program guidelines, ASBs may claim the following: a) Up to 50% of the salary of one full-time agricultural fieldman. b) Up to 60% of expenses, to a maximum of $3,500, for training and development sessions, tours and conferences for members and employees of the ASB. c) Up to 60%, to a maximum of $1,200, of the cost to operate advisory committees. d) Up to 60% of legal fees for enforcement of legislation administered by ASBs. e) Up to 60% for expenses in agricultural extension programs. f) Up to 60% for the purchase of livestock demonstrations and production equipment. g) Up to 60% of the Warble Fly Control Program. h) Up to 60% of roadside backsloping and roadside grass seeding. i) All advertising and guest speaking expenses for general tours and field days. j) Up to 50% of field crop demonstration costs. k) Wages and expenses may be cost shared for enforcement, awareness and equipment used under the Weed Control Act and the Agricultural Pests Act. l) Up to 60% of tree planting programs. m) Up to 60% of agricultural land flood control programs. n) Up to 60% of Soil Conservation Act enforcement and soil and water conservation programming. Current Situation: Alberta Agriculture Food and Rural development has only increased Agricultural Service Board Grants once in the last 21 years. Costs of staffing, programs, enforcement of provincial Acts, equipment, awareness activities and providing services that will protect or improve agriculture production capabilities have increased dramatically over those years. In 1999, ASBs were guaranteed a minimum of a $40,000 grant and all municipalities that were over that minimum received a 10% increase. A 10% increase over 21 years in no way covers the increases in costs that municipalities have incurred.Alberta Agriculture Food & Rural Development (AAFRD) re-organized early in 2002. The majority of the AAFRD district offices closed their doors to the public. In lieu of locally accessible Specialists and Client Resource staff, AAFRD has made available an Information Call Centre via a toll-free phone number where agricultural producers have now been directed to access information. Many producers are frustrated with the Call Centre approach. Information is reported to be generic and it is difficult to access the correct specialist. In some cases, producers seek information that is geographically specific to their farming area. Many producers are now contacting the local ASB for support regarding a variety of issues including information and application forms on AAFRD programs, such as: Farm Income Assistance Program, Alberta Farm Water Program, Grasshopper Control Program, Crop Insurance. Other inquiries include Tax Deferral, rental of AAFRD pumping equipment, feed supplies listings, and information on Fusarium. Municipalities are faced with the expectation that they will supply extension services for producers. Most ASBs were formed to enforce the Provincial Weed Control Act, Agricultural Pests Act, and the Soil Conservation Act. As of late last year, municipalities are now required to issue Form 9 permits for the Hunting of Coyotes with Dogs and to facilitate the distribution of strychnine through the Provinces Emergency Registration of Strychnine program. More recently, in response to the threat of a Fusarium graminearum outbreak in Alberta, the development of the Alberta Fusarium Graminearum Management Plan has placed more pressure on municipalities with inspection and enforcement issues.Conclusion: The provincial government has not adequately increased the Agricultural Service Board Grant, as it has for other provincially funded programs such as those designated by the Premier’s Task Force. Municipalities cannot be expected to increase levels of service and support to agricultural producers, and in some cases to both the federal and provincial governments (i.e. surveys), without increased financial assistance.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect with respect to this issue.