Peace region agriculture diversification a key focus for grant program

Agriculture diversification is the focus of three government grants for the Peace River region thanks to the support from Premier Rachel Notley.

Marg McCuaig-Boyd, the NDP MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, announced $75,000 for the three grants to help the municipalities explore agriculture diversification in the Peace River region.

“Agriculture always has and always will be a key economic driver in the region. Just like our government’s plan to upgrade more oil and gas in Alberta, we need to upgrade our agriculture products in Alberta. We need to look at ways of keeping more money in the region and these grants will help build a good business case,” she said.

The grants are part of the Community and Regional Economic Support program designed to deliver financial support for Alberta’s communities, regions and municipalities for initiatives that promote long-term economic growth. McCuaig-Boyd made the announcement of nearly $500,000 of investment across the Peace region on behalf of Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

The Municipal District of Spirit River received $25,000 to fund a business case to develop a pulse processing facility in the municipality.

Reeve Tony van Rootselaar said their small municipality is focused on attracting agriculture business to the region.

“Pulse acres in the Peace are growing. We need to process some of this at home. Why not the Peace country,” said van Rootselaar, who said the matching grant will help make the business case for the protein extraction plant and attract investors to the area.

“We’re proactive and we want to attract business to the community,” he said adding the matching grant was necessary for hiring a business consultant. “We’re not rich and we need a little bit of help.”

Saddle Hills County received $25,000 to explore the development of a plant to create nitrogen fertilizer from the abundance of natural gas in the region.

Paul Pike, economic development officer for Saddle Hills County said they identified the opportunity of turning local natural gas into urea fertilizer to create jobs and save farmers fertilizer trucking costs. The closest fertilizer plan is more than 500 km away. The plan will look at the economics of a small-scale plant to supply the regional market and a large-scale plant to supply the regional and export markets, he said.

The Smoky River Economic Development group, the five towns, villages and municipalities around Falher received $25,000 to explore the feasibility of an industrial hemp decertification facility in their region.

“We need something to bring value here to the farm. It’s crucial to develop something,” said Diane Chiasson, economic development officer for Smoky River Economic Development.

The Peace region is ideal for growing hemp, but until there is a market for the fibre, farmers will be reluctant to grow the crop.

“It’s a great rotation crop and the value is almost equal to canola,” she said.

Chiasson said the CARES grant is key to developing a good business plant for their small economic development groups.

“CARES was really key. We couldn’t find the money without CARES,” she said.


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