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Why rural infrastructure must be a government priority

Our farmers rely on rural roads and bridges  to bring in supplies and get their products to market – but a lack of government funding to maintain and rehabilitate that infrastructure is working against them.  

There are three primary types of infrastructure – municipal (local roads and bridges), provincial (secondary and primary highways) and federal (railways and ports). The problem lies at the municipal level.  Local governments do not have large tax tools like personal income tax, corporate income tax, and sales tax.  Their taxing power is limited to the property tax. In rural areas, where the population is small, municipalities simply do not have the funds required to sufficiently maintain local roads and bridges.  

More and more, business is also being conducted online, but rural areas have limited access to consistent, reliable internet. This service needs to be extended to remote areas so that agricultural producers can benefit from the reach and efficiencies of digital commerce.

How municipalities are managing

Because municipalities are not receiving the financial support they require from senior level governments, some are taking radical measures.  Examples include the ‘livestock head tax’ imposed in Lethbridge County, recategorizing intensive livestock production from ‘agricultural’ to ‘commercial’ or ‘industrial’, and creating exclusion zones where agriculture activities are not allowed.   

Solutions

1) For rural infrastructure to adequately support farmers and rural residents, provincial and federal governments must provide adequate financial support. Rural infrastructure is just as important as urban projects such as transit or green initiatives.  

2) The taxation system for farmland in Alberta has not been updated in decades. Assessment does not capture farmland used for intensive livestock production, and the values attributed to cultivated land are inaccurate because new technology has made previously less productive land more productive.

Since the 1920s and 1930s, consecutive federal and provincial governments have invested billions of dollars in irrigation including headworks, canals, and reservoirs.  If there are no roads and bridges to go along with that, we will not maximize the return on these billions of dollars of historical investment.

Without the infrastructure to get product to market, investment in agriculture will slow. But high quality, public infrastructure will stimulate investment and support agriculture.

You can read about other issues affecting Alberta’s cattle feeders in ‘Pressing cattle feeders issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip’. 

2017: Cattle feeders’ year in review

This past year saw a number of challenges arise that gave cattle feeders cause for concern, such as changing legislation and regulations, taxation, and trade. At each step, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) has played an active role in advocating and negotiating for our members.

Here are some of the major projects we worked on in 2017:

Strategic plan

In March, ACFA board members, staff and industry partners met to renew the organization’s vision, mission and strategic plan. Here is a summary of the outcome of those talks:

Vision: Champion a sustainable cattle feeding sector in Alberta.

Mission: Pursue innovative and collaborative solutions for a thriving Alberta beef industry

Strategic priority #1: Build ACFA membership by delivering value to our members.

Strategic priority #2: Engage with the provincial government to strengthen the health of the cattle feeding sector in Alberta.

Strategic priority #3: Collaborate with partners to advance the industry.

Strategic priority #4: Strengthen ACFA governance.

Advocacy

There were many issues affecting cattle feeders in 2017 in which ACFA played an active role in advocating for our members’ interests. These included:

    • The Lethbridge County head tax which would severely impact cattle feeders in that area, resulting in feedlot closures.
    • The provincial carbon levy which could add costs by as much as $6 to $7 per head.
    • Federal income tax changes that will harm the viability of family-owned corporations.
    • Infrastructure needs, which are not receiving adequate provincial or federal funding.
    • Labour shortages, ongoing issues with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and proposed changes to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP).
    • Farm safety, employment standards and the Employment Standards Code.
    • Trade, and access to new markets for cattle feeders.

Outreach

ACFA’s communications with stakeholders and the public included:

    • Key provincial government ministers, decision-makers, MLAs and MPs.
    • Members, industry and the media.
    • Feedlot tours for educators, students, and government officials.

Watch for status reports, as we continue to stay on top of these issues throughout the coming year.