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County's ag service board budget proposes less spending

Agricultural service boards will see a decrease in grant funding
mountain-view-county-news

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - The county's agricultural service board (ASB) has sent its proposed 2021 budget to county council for consideration. The move came by way of motion at the board’s recently regularly scheduled council meeting.

The budget calls for total spending of $1,115,700, down $26,250 from last year’s total of $1,414,950.

The 2021 budget items include $205,000 for roadside spraying, $98,000 for roadside mowing, $91,000 for weed inspection, $105,000 for mechanical brushing, $88,500 for sustainable agriculture, $50,000 for riparian project fencing, and $30,000 for alternative land use services.

“As a follow-up from council’s strategic planning workshop administration proposed recommendations, with the support of the grant review committee for changes to the administration of various county grant programs,” administration said in a briefing note to the board. 

“This would reduce the different approving bodies and reduce instances of organizations applying to multiple grants. Historically, agricultural societies have been funded from the rural community grant prior to the establishment of the agricultural-related project grant.”

Under the 2020/2021 provincial budget, agricultural service boards will see a decrease in grant funding from $11,678,000 to $8,485,000, a difference of $3.19 million, members heard.

As well, the board received notification in October that the 2020-2024 ASB grant under the legislative grant funding program will be $123,907, a reduction of $44,452. 

“As for the resource stream, formerly the environmental stream, the fund amount is set at zero within the grant agreements and are awaiting a final decision on this funding stream, likely within the last quarter of the provincial government fiscal year (Jan. to Mar. 2021),” administration said.

The ASB is made up of appointed public members and county councillors. It advises both the county and province on agriculture issues and concerns.

During the recent board meeting, members received an information bulletin from the Agricultural Service Board Provincial Committee regarding funding of the committee.

“I am writing to you today to engage agricultural service boards to consider the proposal for the committee’s operational funding to be funded directly by municipalities,” chair Corey Beck said in the letter.

“Considering the current state of realignment in the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, with the reduction in the ASB program staff and cuts to the ASDB grant funding calls into question the likelihood of securing future funding. 

“Taking into consideration the increased role of advocacy, necessity to engage multiple ministries through the resolution process, the current political and economic climate and the continued support for ASB provincial committee activities, the committee is looking at options outside of what traditionally would have come from the ministry.”

The proposal for future funding being put forward by the provincial committee would see each municipality’s ASB pay $375 in 2022, $500 in 2023, $600 in 2024 and $600 in 2025.

Amendments to the provincial rules of procedure (for ASBs) would be proposed to allow for the collection of the fees and to annual set the fees a year prior to their collection, members heard.

The county’s ASB accepted the letter as information. The next scheduled ASB meeting is Jan. 18 by teleconference.