June 14th, 2024

NDP ag critic makes Lethbridge stop in southern Alberta tour


By Dale Woodard - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 14, 2022.

Heather Sweet, NDP Critic for Rural Economic Development, Agriculture and Forestry. Herald photo by Dale Woodard

The province can boast a balanced budget and still put some of that into the pockets of Albertans.
While some slightly un-spring-like conditions pelted southern Alberta this week, Heather Sweet, NDP Critic for Rural Economic Development, Agriculture and Forestry made the trek down from Edmonton for a tour which included stops in Medicine Hat, Fort Macleod, Claresholm and Lethbridge.
“We’re doing the southern Alberta tour because the real property rights, the bipartisan committee, was tasked to go around and speak to Albertans about their real property rate concerns and what that would mean if there were legislative changes,” said Sweet.
With her portfolio in agriculture, forestry and rural economic development, Sweet – whose family is from Pincher Creek – also took the time to talk some farming with the locals.
“I really just wanted to use it as an opportunity to hear from Albertans about how they’re feeling about the future crops, utilities and affordability,” she said.
Of the feedback, Sweet said she thought the biggest concern was affordability and the price of the commodity going into the next season.
“Obviously, we know with the increase of fertilizer costs and the increase in gasoline and the increase in basically every input, there is a lot of stress and anxiety right now about farmers getting ready or those that need to look at how they’re going to feed their cattle. Just the whole economic future of the agriculture industry as we see these compacted price differences and then conflict in the Ukraine and what that means for the upcoming season.
“I think our biggest concern is going to be what it looks like when we need to have access to wheat. The commodity price is going to go up, obviously, because demand is going to go up, which means the cost of living and the cost of the product for the average Albertan is going to go up. I think we’re going to see some really substantial increases on food costs in the next couple of months, especially in relation to wheat products, basic flour and bread and those sorts of things.”
For the local farmer, that’s going to drive the commodity price up, said Sweet. 
“Which is good for them. But obviously we know that will also drive it up for everybody else, too.”
Going forward, Sweet said the NDP has put proposals forward to the government around things they could be doing to try to address input costs.
“We know dyed fuel right now is the equivalent to regular fuel with the provincial tax decrease the province just implemented,” she said. “I’ve asked the minister to re-evaluate that and make sure they put the comparative advantage back in for farmers so they actually get to see the fuel costs decrease. Right now, there is no benefit for them to be using dyed fuel, so that would help bring down some of those input costs.”
Sweet said she’s also encouraging and urging the government to make sure they’re working with B.C. to ensure the supply chain is going to work this year. 
“We know we have products in a Vancouver harbour that still need to be exported. So they need to be working with B.C and also with our counterparts in the south to make sure we can get our product to market when we need to.”
Sweet also noted overall affordability. 
“I think we need to be looking at how we make sure Albertans are starting to feel the surplus we see in our budget in their pocketbooks. We aren’t really seeing any policies from this government right now that are actually putting money back into the average Albertan’s pocket. I think there are some things we have suggested to the government that they look at doing around utility pricing and bringing down some of that cost of living that the government needs to take seriously.”
Sweet said the government could have already been doing these things.
“When the budget was dropped a couple of weeks ago, we were already seeing inflation going up and we were seeing utility prices in the winter were the highest we’ve seen them in years. They could have done something then. What we’re seeing is this government is trying to celebrate a balanced budget, taking the resources and the revenue Albertans deserve and putting it away with no benefit to the average Albertan and in fact cutting services. So clearly for them it is only about the balance of the budget and not about providing the services to Albertans. You can do both. You can still save and still have a balanced budget, but yet still make sure Albertans get some sort of relief in their day-to-day living.”

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Southern Albertan

What may affect production the most is lack of moisture and ongoing drought conditions, and unless we get more moisture, we may even have to be getting into how water is distributed in southern Alberta.