By Ian Croft
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Many people were aware of the more down to earth events that affected the agricultural industry last year, such beginning off with a drought.
However, not everybody would be aware of some of the things that are affecting the agricultural industry at a federal government level. Fortunately, Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, was able to provide a breakdown on this.
“On a very specific agricultural level it was the joint funding that comes for irrigation that was announced,” said Shields. “We’re almost talking close to $1 billion… for the development expansion renewal of irrigation, and the vast majority of the irrigation acres here in the Bow River riding, but they also extend elsewhere in southern Alberta. That’s our understanding of a huge economic part of agriculture provided by the irrigation districts, and the ag producers within that jurisdiction. That’s significant and that’s important that agriculture and irrigation has been recognized. That announcement last year… will continue to develop over the next year or two to get all the things done. That money is critically important to this area — irrigation farmers, irrigation producers in the agricultural industry that support the irrigation industry — which there are numerous in this area, and the core set in Alberta. That’s a real positive piece in the sense of economics in this area and the continuing element for ag security in the sense of farmers being able to produce as best they can but also for production, it’s used internally and export it from this country.”
However, Shields felt that it wasn’t all good news from the world of politics overseeing the agricultural sector as he also talked about the proposed reduction in fertilizer.
“One of the things that was in opposition to that was the government first coming out and saying a mandatory reduction of fertilizers by 30 per cent,” said Shields. “We have since learned in the last week that there was a number of bureaucrats… supporting that position but they also realized that it would mean a loss of production. Which makes no sense that they would propose a policy that would reduce production. They did this, without consultation with ag organizations, without ag producers, they didn’t do their homework. Yet they were proposing this. Now when the ministers first started talking about it, they were talking about mandatory (reduction of fertilizers). When the pushback came from the agricultural organizations and producers they then shifted their story to talking about, ‘Well it’s voluntary,’ but when you see bureaucrats writing policies, without talking with the people who operate in those industries without consultation, without understanding that the 30 per cent had no benchmark. It had nothing to it, it was just a political number that they thought would work. Implementing it, that’s how deaf people can get, when they develop policies.”
To end off this conversation, Shields narrowed down the scope to talk about the effects on Bow River riding in particular.
“When you talk about specifics in this writing, one, irrigation and money for that was great,” said Shields. “Two, when you have people (that) have no clue about the ag industry, attempting to develop policies like the 30 per cent reduction in fertilizer use not knowing what ag producers are already doing to mitigate and reduce because nobody wants to spend a lot of money on fertilizer, it’s expensive and it’s harder to get, they didn’t understand.”
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