By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Westwind Weekly News
Farming Smarter, a local research foundation, held its 2023 conference and trade show at the Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge Wednesday and Thursday. The event featured information sessions and talks from the Farming Smarter agronomists, as well as guest speakers from universities and the ag industry.
Nathan Neudorf, Alberta’s minister of infrastructure and deputy premier, addressed the conference on Thursday morning.
“I’m sure you’re all wondering, ‘What’s the minister of infrastructure doing at an agricultural conference?’ I think (the director) must have felt sorry for me, or I was the only one close enough to get here on time. Alberta Infrastructure and Agriculture actually share a lot of common traits: both ministries support tremendous amounts of jobs, including architecture, engineering, construction, farming, ranching, and the agribusiness, but even more than that, we both support thousands upon thousands of indirect jobs and industries like manufacturing, processing, and transportation jobs,” Neudorf told the audience.
“This industry is literally the bread and butter and meat and potatoes of our economy; infrastructure – we’re the bricks and mortar. Together, we can make sure that people have the food that they need and the community infrastructure they need to learn, to get well, and to access government supports and programs.”
He went on to say that one of his primary directives was to ensure that Albertans have access to new, renewed, and well-maintained public facilities. He described his role as that of being “the largest property manager in the province,’ one that requires the oversight and maintenance of approximately 1400 properties per year. Health facilities, schools, and provincial buildings are examples he gave.
He said the ministry is also involved in upgrading and improving several agri-food related facilities, like the agri-hub at the exhibition grounds here in the city. He noted that Alberta is pursuing an agri-processing investment tax credit, a 12 per cent non-refundable tax credit to support and attract additional investment into the sector, and Neudorf called it a “huge opportunity” for southern Alberta. Inter-ministry collaboration is also part of his role, and he has met with the ministries of environment, Indigenous affairs, and agriculture to repair the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District (LNID) headworks and canal system.
Neudorf said he’s also working to leverage the community and infrastructure bank for funding. “This can help complete crucial infrastructure projects,” he said. He called the province’s partnership with the LNID and the SMRID to invest just under $1 billion in irrigation expansion and modernization their “biggest success to date with the infrastructure bank. Of course it has a direct impact on many of you in this room and on the future of our agri-food processing and our agri-food production.”
He concluded by reiterating, “infrastructure and agriculture have much in common. Together we are contributing to ensure an economically sustainable province and providing a high quality of life for Albertans. Thank you for the tremendous work you do year around. Your crops (…) make southern Alberta the agricultural superpower in Canada, and I’m very proud that we have a global presence in a city as small as Lethbridge.”