As 2019 came to an end and a new year begins, I wanted to take the time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I also want to highlight our government’s agricultural achievements over the past eight months and our direction for 2020.
We are supporting Alberta farmers’ competitiveness by reducing red tape, eliminating the NDP’s carbon tax, defending our jurisdictional right against a federal Liberal carbon tax, and funding Business Risk Management programs.
Regarding red-tape reduction, I’m most proud of the farm consultations across the province that led to the repeal and replacement of the previous government’s failed Bill 6.
The new Bill 26, the Farm Freedom and Safety Act, gives hard-working farmers and ranchers flexibility to be competitive. It addresses employment standards, worker insurance, occupational health and safety, and labour relations for farmers.
Less than eight months into our government’s mandate, we have already delivered on 43 per cent of our campaign promises.
On Sept. 2, 2019, about 60 people illegally trespassed on the Jumbo Valley turkey farm in southern Alberta. I am extremely proud of how quickly we acted to protect farms and ranches from these types of radical activists. Farmers and the public have made it clear they expect a stronger culture of enforcement by the RCMP and stronger laws.
We committed to amending the Animal Health Act so farmers impacted by bio-security breaches can recover their costs and so trespassers and protesters breaching bio-security protocols can be fined $15,000 for a first offence, then $30,000, plus imprisonment of up to one year, for repeat offenders.
On Oct. 24, Finance Minister Travis Toews introduced our government’s first budget.
Agriculture and forestry is on track to implement key priorities and also support our commitment to a balanced budget by 2022-23. Under Budget 2019 we are maintaining funding for BRM programs, rural utilities, irrigation districts and agricultural societies.
It is also good news that core funding is being supported for agricultural societies in this budget at $11.5 million per year. It helps ensure our province continues to enjoy a well-earned reputation as a reliable supplier of high-quality food products.
This stable, consistent funding commitment helps rural organizations plan for the future and carry on with their important work. We will also fulfil our promise to work with farmers to determine their research priorities and build programs that support them.
Early in 2020, we will be meeting with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders to identify a delivery model that transforms how we conduct research and attract investment to the province to make life better for all Albertans.
My goal is to achieve world-leading agricultural research to be done right here in Alberta.
We campaigned on promoting and growing agriculture, and we will deliver on that promise.
Devin Dreeshen is the provincial MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and minister of agriculture and forestry.