May 30th, 2024

Province to invest in improved irrigation infrastructure

By ANNA SMITH on May 1, 2024.

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

The province announced Tuesday that it will be increasing funding to the irrigation rehabilitation program.

Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation RJ Sigurdson pointed out that in the 2024 budget, there is $19 million for the irrigation rehabilitation program, an increase of $5.5 million over the last year.

“This is money well spent, as expanding and modernizing irrigation infrastructure will ensure that Alberta’s irrigation districts can deliver water to producers efficiently and reliably, while improving productivity and competitiveness in our agriculture industry,” said Sigurdson.

Ultimately, improving irrigation infrastructure means we can irrigate more land with the same amount of water, said Sigurdson. He believes investing in these projects now will help counter dry conditions and increase resiliency of the agricultural sector.

Sigurdson was joined by Grant Hunter, Parliamentary Secretary for Agri-Food Development and Taber-Warner MLA, as well as Richard Phillips, vice-chair of Alberta Irrigation Districts Association, and Bow River Irrigation District chair Walter Unruh for the announcement.

“Back in 1969, the Government of Alberta began a new program now known as the irrigation rehabilitation program to provide cost shared funding to irrigation districts to rehabilitate and upgrade infrastructure,” said Phillips. “Today we see the results that program has delivered to our province, with over 45,000 full-time equivalent jobs and billions of dollars in annual economic activity dependent on our irrigation districts.”

Phillips continued to say all that is required to see the difference this investment has made is a trip beyond the province’s borders to look at other agriculture-based economies.

“Reliable water delivery infrastructure is the key,” said Phillips. “When farmers know they can depend on water when they need it, they’re willing to make the investments required to produce the high quality crops that attract food processing companies to our region.”

Work to replace canals with pipelines continues as a key focus in retaining water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation, as well as maintenance and other projects to modernize and increase efficiency of these vital systems.

“Agriculture is a key economic driver of Alberta’s economy, and improved irrigation helps farmers increase yields,” said Sigurdson. “It helps grow more diverse crops, it improves productivity and allows farmers to reliably support our growing food processing sector. We will continue to do everything we can to strengthen agriculture and irrigation here in Alberta, and support an industry that is always facing adversity and conditions that change year over year.”

Sigurdson says the provincial government is committed to supporting farmers and ranchers so they can continue to compete here at home and globally.

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