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WHEREAS the continuing staffing decline in both provincial and federal government employees has resulted in the agricultural research and forage sssociations becoming the primary source of unbiased information for agricultural producers throughout the province; and
WHEREAS many research and forage associations lack adequate staff to assist with important government initiatives such as pest monitoring without jeopardizing research integrity; and
WHEREAS many of the agricultural research and forage associations are unable to enact long term research and demonstration programs or develop a capital asset replacement strategy at the current levels of funding provided by the province; and
WHEREAS many research and forage associations expend a large portion of staff resources seeking funding rather than performing program operations; and
WHEREAS in March 2014, former Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson announced that the Agricultural Opportunity Fund grant amount had been increased by $2.5 million and research and forage associations could proceed with program expansion; and
WHEREAS in January 2015 the $2.5 million increase in funding was suddenly revoked;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request Alberta Agriculture and Forestry reinstate the 2014 Agricultural Opportunity Fund increase that was allocated for the agricultural research and forage associations.
“We need to ensure this province’s rural and resource communities have the tools they need to keep contributing to the prosperity of Alberta.” A quote from Premier Notley’s election platform
Agricultural research associations (ARAs) and forage associations (FAs) are one of the essential tools used by our agricultural producers. If we can provide unbiased data that assists an agricultural producer in increasing their yield by 5% and reducing their inputs by 5%, their net profitability can increase by up to 60%. If that same producer can improve their marketing skills and increase their returns at the elevator by 5% they can double their profit. With today’s tight margins, 5% is a BIG deal even though it is so small you cannot see a visual difference in the field.
The Agricultural Opportunity Fund (AOF) was created in 2002 to provide program funding for both research and forage associations. Prior to its inception, the Government of Alberta provided core funding to research and forage associations. In 2007 a resolution was put forward at the Agricultural Service Board conference requesting that Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development establish a consistent level of core funding to agricultural research and forage associations. They responded that AOF is program based and as such does not provide core funding but encouraged delivery of programs that were consistent with the goals of AOF. Starting in the 2006/2007 year, “AOF provided 3 year funding to ARAs and FAs who delivered the programs as described in their application.” Alberta Agriculture and Food (AF) continue to support provincial coordination and collaboration of ARAs and FAs by funding the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA). AF provided $1.5 million to ARECA in September 2006 to distribute to their members for improvements to the capital infrastructure of each association. In addition, program funding flows to ARAs and FAs through the Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Program (AESA). In September 2006, $700,000 was made available to ARECA to manage through an application process for additional environmentally sustainable agriculture programs.
For ARAs and FAs to provide quality data and service they need to hire and retain highly qualified staff. Attracting employees to rural Alberta and retaining them requires an assurance of full-time employment and a competitive salary. With government grants being one of the main sources of revenue, it is imperative that they are reflective of rising costs.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Expired Resolution: 11-06F: Increased Core Funding for Agricultural Research Associations and Forage Associations
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to maintain or increase previous levels of core funding to applied research associations and forage associations.
Agriculture and Forestry: The Applied Research and Forage organizations have built strong partnerships with local producers, industry representatives, and provincial and federal researchers to deliver the numerous applied research, demonstration plots, and extension activities that exist throughout the province.
Since 2002, the Agriculture Opportunity Fund (AOF) from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has supported these organizations with consistent and reliable funding of $1.95 million, which is broken down as follows:
In 2014/15, the AOF program allocated $1.95 million, plus an additional $1.98 million for a total of $3.93 million. The additional funding was allocated to provide manpower and extension support, as well as capital items. It was communicated to the organizations that the annual funding would be moving to $3.45 million. This annual funding was later rescinded back to $1.95 million.
For 2015/16, the 13 AOF organizations received the annual funding of $1.95 million, plus an additional $2 million of special funding to further support manpower and extension capacity, bringing the total for the program to $3.95 million.
The Government of Alberta response is somewhat unclear as it indicates that AOF funding was rescinded to $1.95 million in 2015/16 but was supplemented with “special funding” to provide a total of $3.95 million. Budget 2017-18 does not include any reference to the Agricultural Opportunity Fund, nor any reference to funding provided for agricultural research and forage associations. This resolution continues to hold a status of Intent Not Met.