By David Schneider
Little Bow MLA
Government has a role to play in supporting agriculture.
With harvest well underway, this is a good opportunity for all of us to share our appreciation with Alberta’s farm families.
These folks are working long hours, bringing in the crops and trucking calves to auction. They’re doing what they do best, through good times and bad, accepting responsibilities most folks won’t and living a life they love.
Given the severity of the recession gripping our province, it’s also fair to say these folks have never played a larger role in Alberta’s economy.
In 2015, a year that saw tens of thousands of jobs lost across our province, Alberta’s total farm cash receipts totalled a record $13.6 billion, up 5.1 per cent from 2014.
Driving this increase was the livestock sector, which grew by six per cent, largely thanks to record cattle prices.
Unfortunately, 2016 is not shaping up nearly as well. Farmers are facing lower commodity prices and unco-operative weather in some parts of the province is driving down grain quality.
Meanwhile, calf prices have dropped by nearly one-third, the largest decline in 15 years. All of these factors are posing real concerns for the days to come.
Fluctuating commodity prices, rising input costs, and weather-related risks are nothing new to farmers — they are an unavoidable part of the business.
Obviously, if you require the certainty of a regular pay cheque, farm life is not for you. That being said, it is important to recognize the realities faced by our farm families.
When so much of your business is out of your direct control, the last thing you need is additional problems of the man-made variety.
Government policy changes that increase taxes, impose new employment regulations, and drive up heating and electricity costs, only make life more difficult on the farm.
At the same time, federal and provincial governments have been slow to respond to Canadian agriculture’s labour shortage.
According to figures released by the Conference Board of Canada earlier this year, we are currently short 59,000 farm workers, costing our farmers $1.5 billion.
The official opposition has provided many suggestions in how the Alberta government could improve the changes they have made affecting agriculture.
However, they have chosen to deliberately ignore our suggestions. We will continue to advocate for our agriculture industry during the course of the next three years in order to support our farmers and agri-businesses.
The fact is, Alberta’s farm families are a little busy right now, racing the weather to finish harvest and getting calves to market. They’re doing their jobs, and doing it well under unpredictable circumstances.
In the coming weeks, you’re bound to come across these folks working in the field, or moving equipment along our roads. When you do, stay safe and give them some space. But, also, give them a wave or a thumbs-up. Let them know we appreciate their efforts. They’ve earned it.
Since my last column, I have continued to be out in the community meeting with constituents and organizations to get their input on the matters important to them.
I am gathering information I will be taking back to Edmonton, when the legislature resumes, so I can best represent my constituents and advocate on their behalf to the appropriate ministries.
If you have any concerns or issues, please contact my office either in Coaldale at 403-405-5200 or in Vulcan at 403-485-3160 or by calling 1-800-563-0917 toll-free and one of my staff will be happy to assist you. As well, you may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.