+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 8-23S

Provincial Review of Agribusiness and Agritourism

February 23, 2023
Expiry Date:
March 1, 2026
Active Status:
Sturgeon County
3 - Pembina River
Sent to Government
Vote Results:

WHEREAS rural municipalities across Alberta have long supported agricultural operators and their success while preserving and protecting quality of life in the community; and

WHEREAS agritourism is a business model that is growing in popularity as agricultural producers recognize a need and opportunity to diversify their operations and supplement their incomes; and

WHEREAS there is a growing public interest to engage in rural experiences and outdoor recreational activities; and

WHEREAS by combining agriculture and tourism, agritourism offers rural experiences to urban residents, opportunities for cultural exchange, and economic diversification for farmers; and

WHEREAS farmers who wish to grow or diversify their operations through agritourism are subject to financial and regulatory requirements, which can impact the viability of their applications; and

WHEREAS when considering agribusiness/agritourism-related development applications, municipal decision-makers must balance neighbourhood impacts and potential concerns related to greater noise, traffic, and other effects that could change the overall character of a community;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to undertake a joint provincial/municipal review of agribusiness and agritourism operations that includes considerations related to sector promotion and incentivization, municipal/provincial regulatory alignments, potential transitional building code or taxation options for operators, and other matters to help clarify and align the responsible growth of these value-added sectors in Alberta.

Member Background:

The agriculture industry is evolving. While enhancing local food security remains an essential part of agribusiness, in recent times there is also an increasing interest and need for sector growth beyond primary production to include agriculture processing, value-added opportunities, diversification of agriculture through innovative practices, and related activities, such as agritourism.

Public sector approval processes and regulatory mechanisms have not kept pace with Alberta’s social and economic shifts; in its current state, the environment does not allow for more diversified agricultural opportunities in rural communities. In fact, nearly half of Alberta farmers indicated that they had encountered difficulties in obtaining municipal approval for their agritourism operations.

This gap triggered Sturgeon County to undertake an Agribusiness/Agritourism Review in 2021 to assess its own regulatory conditions and seek input on improving investment certainty for the agricultural community, enhancing local food security, and supporting economic growth and diversification. The rising need to understand and manage the impacts of agribusiness or agritourism operations on neighbouring properties was also reviewed based on a goal of protecting and preserving communities and rural quality of life.

The review used a community-based task force model to consider and advance the following elements:

  • Evaluate the current state of agribusiness and agritourism in Sturgeon County (economic impact, real/perceived barriers to agribusiness or agritourism growth and success, and needs and expectations of businesses and landowners, etc.);
  • Review local, provincial, and national agribusiness and agritourism regulatory best practices;
  • Investigate and recommend appropriate licensing requirements or regulations related to hosting events on agricultural parcels;
  • Evaluate the real or perceived impacts (positive and negative) that agribusiness and agritourism operations of different types and sizes have on surrounding landowners;
  • Recommend and undertake an engagement and communication strategy with key stakeholders;
  • Produce a what we heard report summarizing the consultation feedback and comments; and
  • Present a final report containing the task force findings and recommendations on potential regulations and policy.

Provincial Advocacy on Agritourism

In parallel to the considerations noted above, while municipalities in Alberta have broad authority under the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to regulate local land use and to support diversification, there are areas and gaps where municipal and provincial support requires further study and potential alignment and/or updating. Some examples include:

  1. Financial and non-financial incentive programs to encourage new growth of this value-added sector;
  2. Regulatory interface and coordination, from a local and provincial perspective;
  3. Transitional building code or Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) requirements (considering the difficulty for agricultural operators with farm buildings to transition to commercial building code. For example, buildings that were previously exempt from code requirements, permitting, etc., as well as addressing the challenge of poor documentation);
  4. Transitional taxation requirements (considering the costly infrastructure upgrades to safely accommodate high volumes of visitors); and
  5. Other elements that may be identified during a review.

Promoting industry sustainability and enabling value-added options will contribute to a diversified local and provincial economy and help to ensure local food security. Local and provincial support for the continued framework development of agritourism and agribusiness should be considered an essential part of ongoing rural advocacy.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Back to Resolutions Database