By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Attendees of the Farming Smarter conference and trade show last week got to hear from industry experts and leading researchers in the agricultural sector. Highlighted talking points over the two-day event included up and coming research in the agricultural industry, tips to manage multi-generational businesses, exploring industry trends, stewardship, and science. The Farming Smarter conference and trade show was held at the Sandman hotel’s conference centre in Lethbridge on Feb. 16 and 17.
Councillor of Lethbridge County division two, and current county reeve, Tory Campbell, addressed the attendees on Feb. 16 in his opening address. In addition to his political ties, Campbell is also a grain farmer near Coaldale, growing cereals, pulses, and oilseeds.
“Producers in Lethbridge County are truly feeding the world,” said Campbell in the opening speech, which kicked off the annual event.
The region has faced challenges in recent years. Extremely dry summers have impacted farmers’ bottom lines, the fluctuating energy sector impacted businesses all over Alberta, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought a unique set of challenges. Campbell acknowledged how the rapidly growing agri-food sector in southern Alberta has mitigated some of the hardships experienced by other regions in Alberta with ties to more volatile industries.
“Agriculture has served as an economic buffer here in southern Alberta. While the oil and gas industries can be subjected to fluctuating energy prices, agriculture has been steady, helping to shield our region from the economic hardships faced by other Alberta municipalities.”
The Highway 3 Twinning Development Association has been lobbying for the twinning of Highway 3 from the B.C. border to the Saskatchewan border. This issue was addressed at the Feb. 3 county council meeting with MLA for Taber-Warner, Grant Hunter. Last year, the province announced the twinning of the portion of the highway from Taber to Burdett. Proponents of the project pushing for the twinning of the entire Highway 3 corridor as the industry continues to attract growers and processors to the region.
“Our location along Highway 3 is rapidly emerging as Canada’s premier food corridor, attracting investment and increased agri-food processing, We are home to quality land, abundant sunlight hours, and an extensive irrigation network that has helped to further unlock our potential,” Campbell said at the Farming Smarter event.
“We all know the importance of agriculture in southern Alberta and Lethbridge County, but it is also important to know how large of an impact this industry has not only here at home, but globally,” Campbell added.
The County recently commissioned a study that shows producers in the area contributed over $500 million to the provincial GDP in 2016. Serecon, the third party company which was hired to conduct an assessment of the economic impact of agriculture in Lethbridge County, presented the study’s findings during an Oct. 15, 2020 council meeting. During his address at the Farming Smarter conference and trade show, Campbell spoke to this study, adding the findings of the study are numbers, “that we can assume have only grown since,” the study took place.
“As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for high-quality food,” said Campbell adding the upcoming completion of the Agri-Food Hub at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge, “will serve as an economic driver of growth for Alberta’s food sector.”
The project is expected to be completed in 2023, and is projected to contribute more than $90 million to the regional economy each year.