Alta. coalition develops recovery plan for agriculture

Representatives from Alberta’s agriculture industry have developed a plan they say will build a more resilient ag sector and spark efforts to rebuild the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, expected to be formally presented to the provincial government soon, makes six key recommendations to pave the way for growth, investment and job creation in Alberta’s agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors.

Among the recommendations are immediate improvements to business risk management programs for agriculture, steps to encourage investment in valued-added food production, the creation of a new carbon offset market and an expansion of the province’s logistics infrastructure to accommodate expanded exports and trade.

Specifically, the report calls for policies that stimulate private sector investments and build an expanded energy and transportation corridor that links Alberta to key export markets.

The report was prepared by the Ag and Forestry Economic Recovery Table, appointed earlier this year as part of the province’s Economic Recovery Council.

The Ag and Forestry Economic Recovery Table consists of 15 appointed stakeholders in the province’s ag and forestry industries.

“One sector that has shown its ability to rebound time and time again is agriculture, and the COVID crisis has underlined the critical role that farmers play in food security here at home and in markets around the world,” said Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat Commission in a recent AWC newsletter.

“In my opinion, we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to re-establish agriculture and agri-food as a leading driver of economic growth.”

Matt Sawyer, a farmer from Acme, Alta., was also appointed to the Ag and Forestry Recovery Table.

He said agriculture is in a position to lead the province’s economic recovery, create jobs and stimulate investment, as long as the right policy environment is put in place.

“Agriculture is the foundation, basically, of our entire economy,” said Sawyer, who previously served as chair of Alberta Barley and as a director with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

“We have all the resources here — land, air, sun, water, carbon capture …

“Give us the right policy environment and add a few of the things that have been discussed in our strategic action plan and we’ll go. Agriculture will be there (to) create jobs, investment and opportunities….”

In recent weeks, the Alberta government has taken steps to kick-start the provincial economy in the wake of the pandemic.

Last month, the province announced it would spend a record $10 billion on infrastructure projects in the current fiscal year.

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