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WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development used to hire district agriculturists to service local municipal ratepayers with on-farm information and services;AND WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development eliminated the local district agriculturist in favour of local crop specialists;AND WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development eliminated the local crop specialists in favour of a call centre in Stettler, Alberta;AND WHEREAS local ratepayers are requesting that the local municipality provide these same services that Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development eliminated;AND WHEREAS Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is in the process of reviewing the agricultural service board grant structure;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to allocate additional funds, in their agricultural service board grant restructuring, for local municipalities to provide crop and forage production services.
Prior to April 1994, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development maintained a local district agriculturist in most rural municipalities in Alberta. District agriculturists were used extensively by local ratepayers for a wide variety of services. The district agriculturists maintained a variety of trials for both oilseeds and cereal crops. These trials were considered by many to be unbiased and very valuable. They also were available to conduct on farm calls for a wide variety of insects and disease problems, soil sampling, seeding rates, fertilizer recommendations, just to mention a few.In May 1994 the local district agriculturist positions were eliminated in favour of crop specialists. These specialists were to deal primarily in their specialty be it forages, cereals, oilseeds, pulses, etc. The level of service in each municipality depended on the specialty of your crop specialist. Even though their title changed, some of the specialists chose to continue to deal with a lot of the same issues even though it was not their mandate.In April 2002, the local crop specialists were eliminated in favour of a call centre in Stettler, Alberta. The mandate of the call centre is to have the various specialists available via an 800 number. The concerned parties call in and are connected with a specialist to help them deal with their questions. In theory this should work; however, ratepayers are telling municipalities that it does not.The local ratepayers are requesting that the local municipality provide the services that the former district agriculturists/crop specialists used to provide. With limited staff and resources most local municipalities are unable to do this.
The AAMDC has two previous resolutions on this issue: Resolution 2-02F, endorsed by delegates at the Fall 2002 Convention, requests the provincial government to provide ASB grant funding to compensate municipalities for increased duties as a result of district office closures or AAFRD policy or legislative changes. The provincial government response declares its intention to ensure the effectiveness and consistency of the programs as well as assess the level of funding for agricultural service boards. Resolution 3-01F, endorsed at the Fall 2001 Convention, urges the provincial government to maintain the current number of agricultural specialists and support staff in rural Alberta. The provincial government response advises that Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development cannot commit to maintaining the same number of specialists and support staff in rural Alberta due to budget restrictions.