The Simpson Centre at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy recently commissioned a series of papers on the future of agriculture in Alberta. The objective of the publication is to analyze the traditional agriculture industries in Alberta, but one paper in the series caught the publishers off guard.

“Many people like to think about agriculture like our grandparents’ farm,” says Kim McConnell, co-author of the paper titled “Alberta Agri-Food Futures.

McConnell was asked to expand his initial thoughts on the future of agriculture in Alberta that he proposed for the paper, and teamed up with Karen Spencer.

McConnell says the problem with the current perception of agriculture is based off of primary agriculture only and that the strength of agri-food industries in the province isn’t realized. Agribusiness, food processing, and investment opportunities all represent major opportunities for jobs and economic growth, as well as potential to contribute to important consumer issues like carbon capture or climate change.

McConnell sees a lack of an industry champion as a stumbling block for agri-food industries. Another hurdle is having a lot of slow regulations, not to say that the industry should go backwards in terms of standards, but just going at a quicker pace than the current one.

Many of the things included in McConnell’s paper aren’t unique to Alberta, the issues and opportunities discussed are applicable to other provinces.

“Needless to say Alberta and the Prairies have some things that are maybe unique to us,” says McConnell. “We are definitely export focused versus maybe some of the other provinces, which are maybe a bit less.”

Hear the full conversation between McConnell and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney below:

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