The Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta Builds on its History of Achievement
The Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta (AFC) has been supporting and influencing Alberta’s agriculture and food industry and beyond since its inception in 1993-94. The Council can count many industry leaders and early adopters among its members over the years, and the successful projects and programs that were and continue to be launched or aided by the Council for the benefit of the industry are numerous. The following is a chronology of the major milestones in the history of the Council.
The Creating Tomorrow Agriculture and Food Council was incorporated in 1994 with the goals of improving the competitive position of Alberta’s agriculture and food industry in domestic and international markets; sustaining Alberta’s natural resource base and the environment; and enhancing the strengths of Alberta’s people and communities. The Council was created as a result of the “Creating Tomorrow” agriculture, food and fibre industry consultations that took place the previous year, from which the following vision emerged: By the year 2005, Alberta’s agriculture and food industry will be profitable, globally competitive, environmentally sustainable and will value its people.
In 1996, AFC was asked to manage the Growing Alberta program, which had its inception in industry and resided with government until that time when it entered into an informal operating arrangement with Council that was formalized in 2000 when Growing Alberta became a Council program. With support from both senior levels of government, Growing Alberta launched Food for Thought magazine in 2000-01, and a television program called Food for Thought TV was viewed for the first time in October 2001. Industry support continued to grow as the program began a shift toward a stronger consumer-based focus. The program also produced the Harvest Gala event with the focus of the evening being a time for industry to give back to its sector with money raised going toward scholarships and food bank support for rural communities. In 2003-04, Growing Alberta and the Council went in different directions.
In January 1997, the first Leaders Challenge Conference was held. It identified significant issues facing the industry, such as: the lack of access to funding for industry and/or knowledge of where to find funding; the need for strategic alliances (value chains) among industry participants; and a knowledge base and clearing house for information.
Also in 1997, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) established the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development (CARD) fund in order to assist the sector and rural communities in adjusting to 1995 government policy changes and adapt to a more competitive international marketplace. AFC was asked to manage Alberta’s $9.55 million share of the fund. In 1999, AFC was asked by AAFC to manage an additional $14.4 million as part of a four-year program.
The AFC goals were updated in April 1997 in accordance with its new vision, which read: Growing Alberta: Accelerating global competitiveness in agriculture, food and fibre. Later that year, the vision was slightly revised again, and the role of Council was defined as to be: Strategic Leader, Convenor, Catalyst, Advocate and Fiscal Agent.
In 1998, AFC’s Strategic Planning Workshop identified the organization’s priorities as: Think Tank, Value Chains, Growing Alberta, Communication Strategy, CARD, Leaders Challenge and Competitiveness.
In January 1999, another Leaders Challenge Conference was held, which identified issues facing industry at the time and into the future. AFC also officially changed its name to the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta. The Value Chain Initiative was launched by Council the following month to offer information, education, strategies and CARD funding to nurture the value-chain concept.
By the end of that year, collaboration between AFC’s Think Tank committee and the CARD councils of Western Canada and the Territories established the Western Agri-Food Institute.
The Council underwent considerable transition and growth in 2000-01, and a new vision was adopted. It stated: Alberta’s agriculture, food and life sciences industry will be globally competitive, profitable and sustainable.”
Additional staff members were hired during the year, and the federal government asked the Council to administer a three-year, $990,000 Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Initiative (AESI). Council developed a new program to assist farm managers with human resource management, risk and succession/transition issues with the commitment of $1.4 million from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) re-investment funds. This resulted in the Innovation in Agribusiness Management Fund (IAMF) beginning to accept projects in its priority areas in 2002. Increased commitment and partnership from ARD to the Value Chain Initiative provided greater resources to the program with the secondment of a Value Chain Leader and assistance from two business development specialists reporting to the department.
In 2004, the federal Minister of Agriculture announced the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program. AFC was asked to manage Alberta’s share of more than $5 million per year for five years. Council took on a new line of business that year with the launch of the Ag Summit/Agrivantage Strategic Initiatives (AGSASI), which was tasked with exploring industry’s response to the Ag Summit and Agrivantage report recommendations in which Council members had been involved and conduct further research and analysis on several policy areas that emerged during that process. A staff member was seconded for AGSASI by AAFRD.
The Council planning session that year resulted in the additional directions to develop a Human Resource strategy and initiatives for the industry, and position the Council as a policy forum. The result was the launch of the Council-led Human Resource Initiatives that went on to include the Peer Networks Program, Soil to Sky website, and other components. The Council also launched its Communications and Policy component in 2006, and more information about its continued success is available under Initiatives on this website.
The Environmental Policy Initiatives Project (EPIP) started in July 2006 with a mandate to explore policy options on environmental issues affecting the long-term growth and sustainability of agriculture in two primary areas: land use and stewardship. This project came to a close in March 31, 2009, having been a positive agent in advancing Alberta’s agri-food industry by increasing understanding and discussion of environmental policy options. EPIP is the last of a series of Council initiatives in this area over nearly a decade.
AFC’s CARD funds were fully committed during the 2006-07 fiscal year. The value of all projects under CARD in Alberta, since inception until March 31, 2007, reached $120 million thanks to the ability to leverage partnership funding at a ratio of 3.7:1.
AAFC asked AFC to manage the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI) in Alberta in 2006. BOPI funds were fully committed during the 2007-08 fiscal year. The value of all projects under BOPI in Alberta, from inception until March 31, 2010, was more than $10 million with a leveraging ratio of one to one. The feasibility studies, business plans, engineering studies and research conducted provided proponents with valuable information to make informed decisions on moving forward with capital investment in their respective initiatives.
After nearly a decade of acting as a catalyst for increasing the understanding of value chain approaches in Alberta and across Canada, Council’s role of launching value chains as a new initiative has come to a close in 2008. Through the Value Chain Initiative, Council successfully increased industry awareness and understanding of value chains, and increased industry’s capacity to develop value chains. Over the course of the final year, a transition plan was developed to allow the Value Chain Initiative to continue under the purview of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
Alberta’s $29 million share of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program was fully allocated in the 2008-09 fiscal year, and that year saw the Federal Programs staff begin the wrap-up of ACAAF. AFC approved funding for 339 projects over the life of the five-year program, which was announced in 2004 to position Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector at the leading edge and to help industry seize new opportunities. Projects were valued at almost $107 million with a leveraging ratio of 3.77:1 by the end of March 31, 2011.
The Agriculture and Food Council is managing Alberta’s $21.9-million share of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s five-year, $163-million Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). CAAP builds on the success of the previous program, Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF). Its objective is to facilitate the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector’s ability to seize opportunities, to respond to new and emerging issues, and to pathfind and pilot solutions to new and ongoing issues in order to help it adapt and remain competitive. For more information on CAAP, please see the Funding section of this website.
Soil to Sky, Council’s flagship HR tool, entered its final year of operations and quickly passed the milestone of one and a half million hits in 2009-10. Promotion of the website continued on campuses and through other communication tools around the province until late winter when activities switched to a formal wrap-up of services. The website formally ceased operations on March 31, 2010. Prior to its conclusion, the website boasted more than 100 career profiles, a large collection of industry links enriched through classification and metadata, and a variety of user engagement tools, including surveys and integration with social media platforms. The Council hosted the Resourcing for the Future: 2009 Human Resource Congress, in Calgary in early April. The two-day event attracted more than 130 participants and speakers who convened to discuss a broad array of topics in human resource strategy for the agri-food industry.
Eight years of support and investment into the agri-food industry by the Council’s Innovation in Agribusiness Management Fund (IAMF) came to a close on March 31, 2010. Council was provided an opportunity through IAMF to invest $3.9 million into industry and Council-led projects that were under the priority areas of human resources, transition and leadership - the three key priority areas of the IAMF program.
In 2010, the Council expanded its membership base by offering membership to all individuals and organizations working in Alberta’s agriculture and food industry. The following year, a Foundation Document that revamps the organization’s mandate in keeping with current circumstances and the needs of the industry was approved by the board in order to ensure the continued success of AFC and Alberta’s agriculture and food industry.