ADM Townhall – December 13, 2021

ADM John Conrad met virtually with 92 ASB members this month in the second biannual ASB Townhall. The invites for these townhalls are sent out to ASB Chairmen and AAAF to share with ASB members. These meetings allow ASB members direct access to the ADM and senior staff members in the ministry.

The ADM started out announcing the changes in the government with the appointment of a new ag minister. The Honorable Nate Horner brings his Rural Economic Development file to the ministry resulting in the new title of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. Minister Horner is familiar with agriculture and has been catching up quickly with the agriculture and forestry portfolios. Staff within the ministry are being briefed on the Rural Economic Development portfolios and will soon be up to speed. ADM John Conrad ended his opening remarks by thanking ASBs for their role in regulatory monitoring and compliance which is essential to keeping market access for agriculture commodities.

The ADM then went on to address 3 topics: the government’s expectations of ASBs, his expectation for the government to ASBs, and the impact of the resolution process. Of note in these remarks is the continued desire to work together with the ASBs, recognition of the role of ASBs in maintaining market access through regulation, and the continued commitment to provide diagnostic and technical support for pests and diseases. He also reiterated that although ASB grants were reduced, he is encouraged by the willingness of the minister to sign off on 5 year agreements. The resolution process was affirmed as a much appreciated system with integrity and an effective way to send a strong message to the senior government. Every resolution is considered and discussed and will have an impact on future ministry decisions even if the resolution does not get the intended result. All resolutions effectively communicate what is on the minds of the ASBs and are considered important feedback. 

The ADM gave two examples of resolutions making a difference. The first example was Resolution 1-21: Weed Issues on Oil and Gas Sites in Rural Alberta. As a result of this resolution the Weeds on Abandoned Wellsites working group has been convened and the concerns of the ASBs are being discussed with all of the relevant players and solutions are being proposed. The second example he gave was Resolution 2-21: Pesticide Container Collection Program asking that the ministry of Environment and Parks and Cleanfarms change the program to put the responsibility of collecting the containers on the retailers similar to what is being done in other provinces. Cleanfarms has received the resolution and is working to develop a process for moving collection sites in Alberta to retailer responsibility.

Things on the ADMs Radar

  1. Agriculture extension in Alberta is going through a transition. The government of Alberta is no longer offering the traditional agriculture production extension services. Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) has been encouraging the not for profit industry associations, commodity commissions and post secondary institutions to work together to build a extension system for Alberta. A contractor has been hired to coordinate the process and they are answering the question “what does extension delivery in AB look like in the next 5, 10 and 15 years?”.
  2. The progress and process of phase two of this year’s AgRecovery. The second phase applications are scheduled to be open the first week in January.
  3. A new Wild Boar Control Program will soon to be announced. The Program is not an eradication program as the province is supportive of the 9 wild boar farms that still operate in Alberta. The ministry has no intention to change any of the current regulations and enforcement for these farms, but will be offering information about the risk posed by escaped boars. There is an intent to eradicate all wild boar that are not on farms. Alberta is the first Canadian jurisdiction to have a fully funded permanent control program that will focus on whole herd capture and eradication. The ADM also mentioned that interested municipalities can collaborate in a one year hunting pilot program similar to the bounty program.

Questions and Answers from the ASBs

Q: Why is the wild boar control program not an eradication program?

A: The ministry still supports the 9 existing wild boar farms so is not going to eradicate all the wild boar in the province only those that are not on farm. Wild boar are now included in the AFSC Wildlife Damage Compensation program so there should be better information on where they are and the level of damage being caused going forward.

Q:What is being done to ensure that there are no more escapees from the existing 9 farms?

A: Information on the issues and the control program will be made to farmers. 10 municipalities have bylaws that prohibit wild boar farming.

Q: Has there been any progress on providing compensation to beekeepers on wildlife depredation of bee hives? About 1/3 of beekeepers are reporting 80% loss of hives.

A: Pleased to have beekeepers included in the AgriRecovery response. We are working on a way to get our seasonal bee inspectors hired earlier and keep the same ones every year to improve inspection services.

Q: REDA’s have lost their funding. Can we expect it to be restored in the new ministry?

A: Not exactly sure yet on the REDA files. The ministry is still getting up to speed on the new programs and services, but we are having an engagement soon and I will ask.

Q: The Ag Plastics Recycling Pilot has been extended for a year, and now we are needing a farmer engagement. Does the ministry have a plan for how that engagement will happen?

A: Yes we need to make sure farmers are aware that a recycling program will add some cents to the cost of grain bags. The engagement will have to be fast and condensed so maybe a letter writing or online engagement, details are yet to be determined. Alberta Environment and Parks has left room in the legislation to add Agriculture Plastics and the minister is in favor of proceeding with a producer engagement.

Q: Any news from the feds regarding 2% Strychnine extension past March 2022?

A: No, will need to look into that again.

Q: Is there any discussion between AFRED and rail lines on noxious weed control?

A: There are some discussions but its with a different division so will need to inquire as to where things are at.

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