Meeting with the Jason Hale, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation

ASBPC Meeting November 7, 2022: delegation DM Jason Hale and ADM John Conrad.

The ASBPC held their annual organizational meeting and met with the newly appointed Deputy Minister (DM) Jason Hale, and longstanding ASB supporter Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) John Conrad at the Edmonton Convention Centre on the first day of the RMA 2023 Fall Convention. Progress and updates to several resolutions were discussed, as well as other issues facing Alberta farmers.

Resolution 5-19: Multi Stakeholder Committed to Work at Reducing the Use of Fresh Water by the Oil and Gas Industry in Alberta

Dallas Ekstrom, appointed to represent the Northwest started off by asking about the progress made on advancing Resolution 5-19 through the Alberta Water Council process and in the Water For Life Strategy. The Strategy is currently being updated and the ADM is part of the working group. (See Blog post on the Alberta Water Council for background)

As of November 7, 2022 the ADM admitted that he has not yet been able to “move the needle” on this resolution but assured Dallas and the ASBPC that it was top of mind when working on the Water for Life Strategy. In the meantime he continues to press upon Results Driven Ag Research (RDAR) the need to fund projects related to water conservation. The ADM also reported that he sits on the ADM committee which is working on the Climate Framework and water is part of those discussions as well. He committed to continuing to look for ways to advance Resolution 5-19.

Resolution 1-21 : Weeds on oil and gas well sites

ASBPC Vice Chair Brenda Knight asked for an update on the progress of resolution 1-21. In 2021 the ASBPC with delegates from various ASBs, RMA, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Farmers Advocate office, and Alberta Energy participated in 3 working group discussions that clarified where the gaps in the regulation were causing contention. The matter was left with Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation (AGI) staff working under ADM John Conrad to work with AER. AGI staff and the FAO have since developed a series of options that include potential program adaptations and some possible legislative changes. These have been shared with AER.

The ADM stated that engagement between AER and the ministries has occurred and now with the election looming there is little chance that legislative or regulatory changes would be successful. He suggested that the way forward would be to prepare revisit this issue in the summer after the election and hopefully get it onto the legislative agenda. In the meantime perhaps there is a way to research costs born by municipalities.

Resolution 5-22: Exemption of Natural Gas and Propane for Agriculture Under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

ASBPC Chair Sebastien Dutrisac asked that the provincial government continue to look for ways to advocate for this resolution and support Bill C234. RMA will also continue to bring this concern forward with the federal government as well. ADM agreed that this is an important concern for the farmers in Alberta and assured the committee that the province supports the resolution in federal discussions.

Concern about the proposed 30% fertilizer reduction target

South alternate John Van Driesten expressed that farmers are concerned about the impact that a 30% reduction in fertilizer would have on yields impacting food prices and farm profitability. Concern was expressed that what starts out as a voluntary reduction will end up as a regulated one.

The ADM clarified that they are talking about a reduction in emissions and not in fertilizer, and that at the Federal, Provincial Territorial meetings held this summer in Saskatoon Saskatchewan that none of the provinces will agree to mandatory reductions. Minister Bibeau is very firm on the 30% target.

The province continues to work on a Climate Framework that will help to focus and direct discussions with the federal government on agricultures impact on climate. ADM stated that there are two protocols in the works that deal with reducing nitrous oxide and methane. One is being developed by Alberta Environment and the other is industry lead. He also pointed out that when they look at emissions intensity, Alberta has the lowest in Canada, and increasing global demand for food means that productivity can’t be compromised.

Support for Agriculture Extension in Alberta

Peace region representative Christi Friesen explained the importance of the Applied Research Associations to many ASBs and farmers particularly in the Peace and mentioned the desire of the ASBs to be included in the stakeholder discussions coming out of the RDAR lead Extension Task Force work with MNP. RDAR attended an ASBPC meeting in May and were told to expect stakeholder engagements in the summer, but have thus far been left out of invitations and discussion.

The ADM indicated that RDAR has agreed to set up the Extension Task Force process but now that the engagement by MNP was in the final stages, they were no longer leading the process. MNP and the Extension Task Force are recommending a Cooperative Extension Model where industry, ARAs, ASBs and government work together, but no one has taken the lead. Very few provinces lean on the government of Ag extension services. Once the Minister is briefed then the work will continue but not with RDAR’s leadership. RDAR is moving to advisory tables and the ADM stated he could see ASB representation at those tables.

There are now two government executive directors working with RDAR and one person dedicated to communications so things should improve going forward.

Strychnine resolutions 3-21 and 4-21

Central region representative Brenda Knight stated that not being able to use an effective product like Strychnine is a serious problem for the prairies. She aske if there was any research being done to find suitable alternatives, and what the ministry can do to ensure access to effective control methods.

The DM and ADM acknowledged that access to strychnine is an ongoing concern and that they have met with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency on this issue. The ADM agreed that this is a topic could possibly use more research and innovation and that it has been brought to the attention of RDAR as they kind of project that is relevant and should be funded.

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