Alberta’s agriculture societies can now plan future events and maintain hockey rinks without having to worry about being cash-strapped, thanks to a commitment from the province.
The provincial government announced today that Alberta’s 283 primary and seven regional agriculture societies will receive $11.5 million per year for the next three years. Before this, societies were funded only once a year.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to actually plan forward,” Tim Carson, chief executive officer of the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, said during the announcement.
“Ag societies have been required over the last several years to provide three-year business plans, and they’ll actually now have a budget in place to have those plans as they move forward.”
Ag society funding has recently been a hot-button issue among producer groups. Last year, many were left scrambling because the government delayed their funding and, since then, they’ve been advocating for long-term commitments.
“One of the challenges with agriculture societies is they don’t have a significant amount of surplus,” Carson said.
“So, as they were preparing for the hockey season and planning fairs, there were many cases where they were managing with very little funds to keep those activities going.”
Some societies might even have deficits this year because of the funding delay, he added.
“So, this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for them to understand that they don’t have to worry going forward.”
Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said the funding will give the organizations a sense of security.
“It’s abundant and clear ag societies strengthen communities, rural and urban alike, because their members are strong community builders,” he said.
“This long-term commitment will let them plan ahead and continue to support the critical work they do in our province to encourage growth in the agriculture sector.”
Ag societies are responsible for many activities in their communities. They often operate curling and hockey rinks and community halls and organize rodeos, summer fairs and other events.
More than 65,000 volunteers work for ag societies in Alberta.