WHEREAS Alberta Treasury Board and Finance has been reviewing program funding including the funding provided to agricultural service boards and agricultural societies; and
WHEREAS there have been significant delays in the dispersing of agriculture service board and agriculture society funding, which has caused significant stress and anxiety to agricultural societies and municipalities across Alberta; and
WHEREAS agricultural societies and municipalities benefit from long-term, stable financial commitments from the Government of Alberta; and
WHEREAS agricultural societies provide significant economic benefits to their local communities and the Albertan economy; and
WHEREAS agricultural service board funding is used to address and mitigate challenges related to weeds, pests, invasive species, soil erosion, and other important environmental issues that risk jeopardizing farmers, producers, and the agricultural sector; and
WHEREAS agricultural societies and municipalities are limited in their ability to raise revenues; and
WHEREAS there has been no commitment to the continuation of the agriculture service boards and agricultural societies funding programs beyond 2017-2018; and
WHEREAS the agricultural service board and agricultural society funding is derived from the Alberta Lottery Fund;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties strongly encourage the continued financial support through the Alberta Lottery program or a similar program for agriculture service boards and agricultural societies beyond 2017-2018.
Agricultural societies operate an abundance of arenas, curling rinks, golf courses, community halls, rodeo grounds, fairs, festivals, farmers’ markets, and other vital community and recreational facilities. These facilities strengthen communities and enhance quality of life in immeasurable ways. Agricultural societies are recognized as community leaders that connect Albertans and the agricultural industry.
According to a 2012 Report entitled Community Benefits, Economic Stimulation, and Sustainability prepared by Manecon Business Strategies Inc., Alberta agricultural societies use about 65,000 volunteers who contribute approximately 640,000 hours of labour. Valued at $20 per hour, that amounts to approximately $12.8 million. The study also showed that society events generate approximately $583 million annually in event-related spending. This data indicates that agricultural societies generate an incredible return on investment given the Government of Alberta’s initial $8.67 million investment.
Agriculture Service Boards (ASBs) serve an important role in supporting weed control, soil and water conservation, and pest management across rural Alberta. ASBs also advocate for local agriculture communities and sustainable practices that support the economic success of Alberta’s agriculture industry. Since 2013, approximately $11.6 million has been provided to ASBs on an annual basis.
While it was announced in late September that agricultural societies would be receiving their funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, as of early November some agricultural societies have still not received their funding. Typically, this funding is released in late spring, early summer.
Likewise, many ASBs have not yet received their annual funding. Unlike agricultural societies, there has been no information provided by the Government of Alberta as to the status of ASB funding for the current fiscal year.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Treasury Board and Finance
Our government will continue to protect the programs and services that Albertans rely on, while carefully and prudently finding savings. More details will be available in Budget 2018-19. Agriculture Service Boards and Agricultural Societies are the cornerstone of many rural communities in Alberta. Both groups help ensure sustainable agriculture and a vibrant rural Alberta.
As we continue budget deliberations, our government wants to recognize and thank the members of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties for their continued advocacy of the Agriculture Service Boards and Agricultural Societies.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
The 2017 grant payments to Agriculture Service Boards (municipal governments) and Agricultural Societies (not-for-profit organizations) were delayed due to uncertainties around in-year savings. Although eventually paid in full, the delay has caused a heightened awareness about potential budget cuts to these groups. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has received letters of support and media attention urging the preservation of the current level of funding to these organizations. A future reduction in funding to Agriculture Service Boards and Agricultural Societies would be perceived as negative. The 283 Agricultural Societies contribute to the quality of life and economic activity in rural Alberta through operating community buildings and agricultural programming
Moving forward, we will continue to take a thoughtful approach to budget decisions as we work to address the current fiscal challenges. We will look for opportunities to find efficiencies, while focusing resources on important core programs and services for Albertans. At this point, final decisions on future budget allocations have not been made.
As announced at the RMA 2018 Spring Convention, agriculture service boards and agricultural societies will see a three-year funding commitment starting in the provincial budget 2018-19. The 2019-20 budget maintains the previous funding commitment. Additionally, ASBs are now eligible for five-year operating grants. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted.