Agriculture funding up as gov’t supports new research initiative

EDMONTON — Agriculture funding received a boost in this year’s Alberta budget.

The province has established a $200 million endowment fund for agriculture and food innovation within the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

The Agriculture Food and Innovation Account will allot $9 million a year for the next three years from the $200 million fund to support key areas of basic and applied research.

“The Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment will promote sustained growth in the agriculture and food processing sector,” provincial finance minister Doug Horner said during a news conference.

The money will be directed to:

  • Expansion of grant programs to local applied research associations
  • Value-added product development and commercialization
  • Enhanced research capacity in the Peace River District
  • An expanded plant health laboratory to facilitate the development of new resistant plant varieties and agronomic practices

Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson said agriculture fared well in the budget with no big hits and the addition of the endowment fund.

“I am extremely happy with this budget.”

The agriculture portion of the $43 billion provincial budget has increased $97 million from $938 million to slightly more than $1 billion.

“The $200 million endowment is an opportunity to do some visionary work,” said Olson.

More details will be announced soon, he added.

Bob Barss, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties said the rural endowment fund will be positive for rural Alberta.

“We have been really pushing the government hard to put money back into research in agriculture.”

Included in the agriculture budget is a $17 million flood recovery program for small businesses affected by the June floods in southern Alberta. The loan program is not just for agricultural producers but is included in the agriculture budget because it is administered through AFSC.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency budget increased five million to $34 million.

The budget also included a $200 million a year Alberta Future Fund. It is to be used at the legislature’s discretion, but is as yet unallocated.

Olson said he has his eye on this money for agriculture projects.

“To me, this creates some opportunity for some legacy type projects that could be real game changers. It’s a great opportunity to do some long-term thinking.”

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