Job cuts, tax hikes in ag sector

The Farm Fuel benefit and tax exemption program will be capped

EDMONTON — Agriculture was not left untouched in Alberta’s provincial budget, but its core services will remain intact, said associate agriculture minister Everett McDonald.

“I think we have a very balanced approach to our budget,” he said.

“We are in very difficult times right now and I think all of Albertans know we need to step forward and do our part. Our core programming is sound and we will continue to use as many tools as we can to help Albertans especially expanding our rural economy.”

Forty positions will be eliminated in the agriculture department and the Agricultural Financial Services Corp. Nine AFSC offices will be closed, which will reduce the number of offices to 46 from 55.

Seventeen positions will be eliminated.

The agriculture department will lose 23 staff in offices across the province.

The fuel tax was increased four cents a litre to 13 cents per litre after the budget was released.

The Farm Fuel benefit and tax exemption fuel use program will be capped at nine cents a litre.

The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency budget will be cut $4.8 million to $32 million.

The two largest agriculture societies, Northlands and the Calgary Stampede, will each have their budgets cut by $2 million.

The other regional agricultural society budgets were untouched.

Al Kemmere, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, said his organization was “relatively happy” with the budget, especially the government’s decision not to cut Municipal Sustainability Initiative grants that rural municipalities use for infrastructure funding.

“We were expecting a harder line budget than that,” said Kemmere.

“From a rural municipalities point of view, we’re always looking for more funding for our bridges and our roads.”

Kemmere said the association will continue to advocate for money to repair and maintain roads and bridges.

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