Advancing resolutions with the Agriculture and Forestry Department

ASBPC meets with ADM John Conrad and ED Jake Kotowich

On May 25th the ASBPC was pleased to welcome John Conrad, ADM of the Primary Agriculture Division, and Jake Kotowich, Executive Director of the Crop Health and Assurance Branch to their regular meeting. This is the first time since October 9, 2020 that the Committee had the pleasure to catch up with the ADM who has frequently been on secondment with the COVID 19 response.

The ADM started out by stating that 2021 is a year of stabilizing the Primary Agriculture Division, building relationships with key partners and focusing on making sure that staff and management are deployed in a way to support the agriculture industry during economic recovery. He complemented the ASBs and the ASBPC for the progress that has been made developing relationship with the Minister and becoming a significant voice and advocate for agriculture.

Two potential initiatives were pitched to the ASBPC including a regular town hall type engagement with ASB chairs and the Deputy and/or Assistant Deputy Ministers, and new ASB Liaisons, that will replace Key Contacts to virtually attend ASB meetings to provide direct communication to and from the Ministry and DM/ADM offices. Chairman Corey Beck agreed that improved communication is a good first step to building stronger relationships with the ASBs and looks forward to future engagements.

Funding was again brought up, reiterating that it is not only amounts but timing of grants that are important to keep things running smoothly. The ADM acknowledged the value of the ASBs, that the relationship is going very well with the minister and that the current level of support for the ASBs and ASBPC is critical to maintaining that value.

Next the ASBPC discussed Resolutions 1-21 : Weed Issues on Oil and Gas Sites in Rural Alberta, and 2-21: Pesticide Container Collection Program with the ADM. The Chair was able to point out the Environment and Parks (AEP) responses received on these resolutions and ask for his assistance to advocate for them. The ADM mentioned he has a history with AEP and would inquire about these two resolutions. He also mentioned that he has a personal interest in the agriculture plastics recycling so is sure he can help us to make some headway with Resolution 2-21. He also talked about the Extended Producer Responsibility Policy that is under development and gave the committee a heads up to expect a public engagement this summer. He had not heard of any movement by the ministry on resolution 1-21, but asked for more information and will follow up internally to see if there is something to update the Committee on.

ADM John Conrad stayed for a full hour and then had to leave for another appointment. Jake Kotowich stayed to discuss resolution 6-21: Agriculture Research Association Check Off Option which the Chair was able to brief him on. The discussion focused on the need for base funding support for the applied research associations and support for extension activities that ensure that results of RDAR funded projects make it to the farm for adoption. they acknowledged that extension is front of mind with primary agriculture and that there will need to be a new path to move forward.

Even though at the end of the delegation session there were no concrete promises or commitments, the Committee was encouraged by the willingness of the ADM and ED to engage with the ASBs and include them in upcoming discussions. The potential new communication streams also offer some exciting opportunities for increased ASB engagement with the ministry, and advancing resolutions in the future.