By Trevor Busch
Last month, the federal government announced $4.4 million in funding for various agricultural research projects, including a focus on cattle.
The money is intended to help farmers stay on the cutting edge of innovation, expand markets and manage their business risk. Some $2.2 million is being invested specifically into the province’s cattle industry.
“The one I’m probably most familiar with is the feedlot safety program,” said Bow River MP Martin Shields. “The standards they developed, code of practice, it’s sort of one of those groundbreaking things that people in other countries are picking up and using. It’s a really good piece of work that the feedlot operators, the cattle feeders, have developed.”
Projects include $839,485 for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to explore the use of remote sensing as a tool to insure forage crops; $901,240 to help the Alberta Beef Producers develop satellite data to help improve forage insurance; $255,000 to help the Canadian Angus Association develop tools that will improve better breeding cattle; and $205,500 for the National Cattle Feeders Association to develop and implement a national feedlot animal care assessment program.
“In co-operation with the private sector, you can make a partnership,” said Shields. “In the private sector, sometimes people are leery of what a private sector company might be doing it for, but I’ve found that most private sector companies working with partnerships with the ag sector do a great job. If you add in that partnership, and that belief, that there is a role for the government to support and help that — Canada developed historically some of the best wheat in the world when there was a cooperation between the research departments of Agriculture Canada. Is there a role? If they work in conjunction with the private sector and the producers, I think that you can do some good things, like with the feedlot guys.”
The remaining funds, just over $2.2 million, will support a number of innovative projects that will help market development, emergency planning, competitive pricing, animal care assessments and farm software.
“It’s a huge piece of the Bow River riding,” said Shields. “As you well know, this riding has a large feedlot industry in it, as well as a neighbouring one in the County of Lethbridge.”
Proposed changes to the nation’s tax regime with regard to small business and agricultural operations is generating a huge groundswell of opposition in Bow River, added Shields.
“A lot of the people in our constituency are very concerned — whether you’re a producer, or whether you’re an ag service business within an urban centre supporting those producers — this is really a challenge for people to understand why these ideas would be proposed as a tax. I’m getting the most feedback that I’ve ever had, and I’m getting people who are writing me, calling me, who have never written a politician in their life.”
The agricultural industry in Alberta is a diverse and dynamic industry with over $13 billion in farmgate sales and close to $10 billion in exports.