Alberta's "period of restraint" cuts millions from agriculture budget

Alberta’s Minister of Finance, Travis Toews, donned a pair of old cowboy boots before unveiling Alberta’s latest budget, saying that to him, the boots represent a part of Alberta’s heritage, and “speak to the practical and resilient character of Albertans.” The budget, intended to “end overspending and live within our means,” saw changes to many sectors.

“To me, these boots represent a part of our heritage and speak to the practical and resilient character of Albertans. We owe it to them to be thoughtful, measured and balanced in our approach to budgeting. I am committed to fighting for Albertans by ending overspending and by living within our means.

For agriculture, the Alberta Government is planning to cut at least $88 million from the department’s 2019-20 budget, and will:

  • Dispel agriculture myths, and strengthen consumer confidence and promote agriculture and forestry, as part of the the $2 million ‘Fighting for Agriculture and Forestry’ Strategy;
  • Increase the portion of certain agriculture insurance program enhancements and benefits covered by producers;
  • Reduce expenses at the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) by $5.3 million by 2020-21, while also enhancing service delivery; and
  • Save $34.1 million over four years by transitioning to a framework of producer and industry-led research.

Overall, the government anticipates total operating expenses for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry at $879 million for 2019-20; $834 million for 2020-21; $824 million for 2021-22; and $822 million for 2022-23. Actual expenses for 2018-19 came in at $967 million.

“I don’t think that anything that we saw in the budget documents was particularly surprising. We’re going into a period of restraint – that’s been a conscious decision of this government,” says Tom Steve, general manager, Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, in this interview from RealAg Radio.

“Our crop insurance program and the other business risk management programs within the ministry are kept whole, and those are by far the biggest expenditures in the provincial ag ministry. We need reliable crop insurance and we need reliable AgriStability…and AgriInvest.”

Steve says though he sympathizes with the people who will be impacted by the changes, he sees the move as hitting the reset button, and ensuring a long-term strategy to be able to fund programs that are meaningful to farmers.

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