Feedback submitted on behalf of the 69 ASBs
The ASB Provincial Committee was pleased to meet with Minister Devin Dreeshen on November 23, 2020. During the meeting the Minister encouraged the Committee to email him any concrete examples of issues that have arisen from the changes in the ministry. After seeking feedback from the ASBs across the province, 5 impacts were identified and communicated:
- Key Contacts – in 2004 there was a review of the ASB program conducted within the ministry and one of the recommendations was for increased communication between the ministry and ASBs. One result of that recommendation was having specialists within the ministry assigned as Key Contacts to attend ASB meetings and facilitate communications. Many of the Key Contacts were lost in the recent changes in the ministry.
- ASB Program Assistant Position – Another recommendation of the 2004 ASB program review was for the ministry to provide administrative support for the ASB program. This ministry position has provided the support that keeps the resolution processes running smoothly, provided historic context and continuity between elections, and has kept the ASBs apprised of changes in the ministry and with the program. This position has been cut.
- ASB Information on Alberta.ca – One of the tools for improved communications between the ASB Program and the ASBs is access to historical and current contact information on a ministry maintained webpage. This webpage provided individual ASBs with quick access to legislation, historic information, resolutions and resources to help with the resolution process. It was the go to site for hosting schedules and current contact information. in 2018 the webpage was re-structured and the information removed.
- Ag-Info Centre (Centre) – When the Ag-Info Centre was fully staffed and working, the ASB programs were clients of the Centre. Now callers to the Centre are referred to the ASBs, commodity associations and Applied Research and Forage associations. This change in staffing and mandate at the Centre was done without ensuring that these associations and ASBs had the capacity to take the referrals. As it is now, none of those contacted feel they have the mandate or capacity to replace the services once offered at the Ag-Info Centre.
- Specialists for Extension and Unbiased Research – ASBs have in their mandate, to improve and maintain agriculture production in their jurisdictions. To do that they accessed the specialists and researchers within the ministry to find unbiased sources of information. In addition these specialists and researchers, accessed through the Ag-Info Centre or at events, offered a place for farmers to test the recommendations they receive from industry sources to see how these industry recommendations align with recommendations from local research. Support from these ministry specialists helped to communicate the benefits of programs offered by the ministry and offered assistance in determining how these programs could be benefit individual farm operations. Many of these positions were lost in the recent changes, and currently ASB staff are not equipped to fill this role.
A recommendation from the review in 2004 was that the program should be reviewed every 5 years. In 2017 the ASB program went though another review and the results of the review were published in 2019.