Response from Minister Dreeshen Regarding Impacts of Agriculture and Forestry Changes on ASBs

Follow up to December 17 blog “Impacts of Changes in Alberta Agriculture and Forestry on ASBs”

In November the ASB Provincial Committee met with Minister Dreeshen and as part of the discussion brought up some of the impacts of recent realignment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Minister asked the Committee to follow up with specific examples. After seeking input from ASBs directly a letter was written and submitted. Recently an email response from Minister Dreeshen was received by the Chair and it is copied in its entirety here for your information.

“Corey Beck, Chair Agricultural Service Board Committee

Dear Mr. Beck:

Thank you for your December 16, 2020, letter regarding the impact of changes in my department. I appreciate the extra time you have taken to further outline the issues raised during our November 23, 2020, meeting about the gaps in service that Agricultural Service Boards (ASBs) have experienced as a result of recent changes to the ministry. The comments you raised on the following four specific areas of concern have provided greater clarity, I will respond to each area in turn.

Key Contacts:

I agree that the Key Contact Program is an important program, and I can confirm that the department is planning to support continuing of the program. As you know, with less department resources, the current model needs to be changed; however, Agriculture and Forestry (AF) staff will work closely with the ASB Provincial Committee to find an innovative approach for delivery of the program.

ASB Administrative Support:

AF is looking at ways to shore up this gap. We are looking at what internal resources are available to provide the needed assistance. AF will connect with your Committee once we have a sustainable solution. Please note that it is our intention to continue supporting the committee and ASBs with regional resolution sessions, continued support to the ASB Provincial Committee, and support for the ASB Program manager.

AF Website Concerns:

AF’s ASB program staff are in the final stages of developing a new webpage. The goal of the new webpage is to be a one-stop-shop for agriculture fieldmen, ASB members, and producers to help navigate directly to the information they are looking for on our website as well as information on the ASB Provincial Committee’s website. We hope to have this new website launched in the upcoming months and plan to work closely with ASBs to make improvements as needed.

Ag-Info Center, Extension and Research Expertise:

Our Ag-Information Centre continues to be the first point of contact for department program and resources for the agriculture community. AF is aware of the concerns that ASBs have raised with regard to client referrals for subject matter experts and we are looking to improve our referral system. AF is working with our partners to ensure clients are connected with the right information and specialists. Our trusted partner agencies are also working closely with us to fill the specialist and research gaps.

Thank you again for your letter and for our recent meeting. The growth and success of Alberta’s agriculture industry remains at the heart of Alberta’s economic recovery strategy. ASBs and the producers you serve are an important partner to garner that success.

Sincerely,

Honourable Devin Dreeshen

Minister, Agriculture and Forestry”