Alberta budget preserves agriculture spending

Agriculture survived unscathed in the first budget under the new NDP government.

Spending under the new combined ministry of agriculture and forestry will remain at $1.1 billion with few changes to programs.

Grants to agriculture service boards and local fairs will stay the same. The $2 million cuts in grants to the Calgary Stampede and Northlands in Edmonton, which were announced in the previous Progressive Conservative government this spring, were not reinstated.

Agriculture will be key to helping the province find new markets for agriculture products under the government’s focus on diversification.

It said it would continue representing agriculture and forestry in trade agreements in priority markets for Alberta.

It will also continue to reduce interprovincial trade and infrastructure barriers and work with the federal government and trade organizations to repeal country-of-origin labelling in the United States.

The government will allocate $8 million a year for two years for rural bus service, starting in the 2016-17. Details are still to be worked out in discussions with rural municipalities and other agencies.

Municipal Sustainability Initiatives grants, which municipalities use to fund infrastructure projects, will increase $100 million for a total of $3.9 billion over five years.

As well, the government has accepted recommendations in the auditor general’s report on grazing leases.

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