Farm groups ask leaders…

Alberta’s general farm organization is seeking answers to six questions from all parties running in the provincial election.

Wild Rose Agriculture Producers chair Lynn Jacobson said the questions were sent to party leaders April 4, and WRAP intends to make responses public when they are provided.

WRAP seeks comment on the idea of paying farmers to protect and preserve habitat and the environment, as has been explored in pilot projects in Alberta and Manitoba.

“If you were paid to keep (wetlands), it might encourage people to keep the sloughs for the wildlife and basically for water retention. It’s good agricultural practice, when it comes down to it,” said Jacobson.

Solar, wind and geothermal energy could mitigate demand for increasing electrical generation from other sources, while providing additional income to farmers. WRAP suggests farmers should be able to connect to the grid at reasonable cost and sell excess power.

“Would your party, if elected, make changes to power regulations to give farmers the opportunity to contribute both to the environment and the well-being of the Alberta economy by better utilizing alternate energy?” WRAP asks.

WRAP questions the need and expense associated with new transmission lines approved by the current government. Predictions of drastically higher electrical bills are a concern for farmers, Jacobson said. His group is asking parties to explain how they would address the prospect of higher costs.

Legislation governing property rights and landowners’ ability to get adequate compensation and contest the fairness of payments for land used for public projects have raised controversy. WRAP seeks clarification and information on party intentions.

“We think there should be ways and means to have a checkoff, a way of funding (general farm) organizations,” said Jacobson.

Members fund WRAP, but a formalized checkoff would provide stable funding for ongoing lobby efforts, he added. The group wants to know if parties support the idea of a general checkoff.

Jacobson said an increasingly urban population in Alberta will inevitably lead to more urban-rural conflicts on issues such as farm practices and pesticide use. Farmers will need input on regional plans to protect their interests. WRAP seeks comment on whether parties will ensure agriculture is engaged in developing regional plans.

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