With the majority of Albertans now living in large urban centres, the temptation remains strong for political leaders and candidates ramping up their campaigns for the May 2023 election to focus on city issues.
However, any politician or party that fails to focus meaningful and honest attention on rural Alberta – and in particular its vital agriculture industry – will do so at their own peril.
For its part, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) says all parties should and must recognize that without a viable and healthy agriculture industry, Alberta cannot hope to move forward in the coming months and years.
In a recently released winter 2023 policy statement, the RMA outlined key issues facing the agriculture industry that candidates need to acknowledge and work to address should they be elected.
Regarding the use of land in rural Alberta, the 69-member municipal association states: “Competing demands for land-use in a growing province have impacts on the agriculture industry. Urban sprawl and conversion of agricultural lands threaten high quality agriculture land; stronger land-use planning practices are needed to promote infill and consider the preservation of valuable agricultural lands.”
The next provincial government must also ensure that rural municipalities are properly and adequately supported so they can, in turn, provide the infrastructure needed to keep the agriculture industry viable and sustainable, the association says.
“In some areas of Alberta, intensive agriculture operations cause significant strain on municipal road and bridge infrastructure. It is important that rural municipalities have the autonomy to address this in a way that does not compromise the sustainability of the agriculture industry.”
Other key issues and challenges facing the industry include market access, farm and ranch safety, as well as rail use and availability. Those issues too must be considered by candidates in the upcoming election campaign.
Only time will tell whether the UCP, the NDP and other parties are prepared to listen to the concerns and input of agriculture producers and farm families during election 2023.
Hopefully they will, for everyone’s sake.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.