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Ag Service Board Annual Report to Cypress Council

Posted on April 11, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Heather Cameron

During the County of Cypress Council Meeting that took place on April 3, the Agricultural Service Board provided their 2023 in Review ASB Annual Report. 

“The Ag Service Board is a very critical part and piece of rural municipalities,” stated administration in an opening statement.

After Administration gave their recommendation that Council accept the 2023 in Review ASB Annual Report as presented, Lisa Sulz, Agricultural Supervisor for Cypress County, and Kennedy Roeder, Assistant Agricultural Fieldman for Cypress County from the Ag Service Board then gave the report.

“Throughout the province, Agricultural Service Boards throughout Alberta are responsible for administering and enforcing the Agricultural Service Board Act, the Agricultural Pests Act, the Soil Conservation Act, and the Weed Control Act, and supporting the Animal Health Act,” said Sulz.

Cypress County’s Agricultural Service Board, Sulz said, also strives to provide County rate payers with ongoing agricultural and environmental services and programs generally not available elsewhere. Plus, Sulz said, as part of the Agricultural Services Board grant application process, the board must develop a five-year business plan outlining goals and objectives for upcoming years, with 2024 being the last year in the current grant cycle.

“The strategic business plan provides staff with a document to establish priorities and to assist in the evaluation of programs and services,” said Sulz.

Sulz then outlined the grants that the Agricultural Service Board received last year: Legislative Activities totalling $166,247, Resource Management totalling $20,000, the Rat and Rabies Control Program totalling $13,000; a total of $8,000 from Alberta Environment and Parks for a Biocontrol on Bed and Shore; Federal Government funding totalling $6,300 for summer employment; and a grant from CleanFarms totalling $52 for twine recycling.

In terms of accomplishing the Agricultural Service Board’s goal of enforcing the Weed Control Act, Sulz said, the Agricultural Service Board had six seasonal staff and one full-time employee appointed as weed inspectors, they inspected, one permanent seed cleaning plant, they inspected three mobile seed cleaning plants, they inspected and destroyed prohibited noxious weeds at 46 known sites and two new sites, and they inspected and controlled noxious weeds at 106 known sites and three new sites. Many hours, Sulz said, have also been spent hand-pulling and digging regulated weeds and invasive plants and weed inspectors also mapped most of the locations of regulated weeds, as mapping allows staff to evaluate the effectiveness of control efforts better.

As far as inspections go, Sulz said, 894 kilometers of county road were inspected, as were 1073 hectares of ditches, and approximately 145 hectares of that required weed control. 528 kilometers of provincial highways were also inspected, Sulz said, and approximately 52 hectares were sprayed. Approximately half of the CPR right of ways in the county were also inspected, Sulz said.

Sulz briefly showed a few phots of biocontrol, saying that there were 12 sites of Leafy spurge, 2 sites of Russian knapweed, and they also did a trial with Russian olive trees within Canada with Ag Canada last year using mites and the intent is to get the mites to stop Russian olives from blooming and spreading. Another potentially invasive plant the ASB dealt with, Sulz said, was Germain Statice, a deep-rooted perennial that was brought to the ASB’s attention a couple of years ago is similar in appearance to Baby’s Breath from a distance and has been suggested as an alternative to grow as an ornamental plant. Unfortunately, Sulz said, it has shown to be invasive and is in the area to the point where there was a report of some in the Hilda area, which the ASB will investigate this summer, and the City of Medicine Hat also picked a bunch of it in three separate locations within City limits. The Agricultural Service Board, Sulz said, will work with landowners to monitor and control it going forward.

In terms of enforcing the Agricultural Pests Act, Sulz said, the Agricultural Service Board had six seasonal staff and one full-time employee appointed as Pest Inspectors; they inspected two Canola fields for Clubroot, Blackleg, and Sclerotinia, and inspected an additional six field as requested for a Saskatchewan/Manitoba blackleg survey for the prairies. The Board Sulz said, also had 10 wheat fields inspected for fusarium, they had one potato field inspected for Bacterial Ring Rot, they had 120 sites inspected for grasshoppers, they inspected 232 in Rage 1 of the Rat Control Zone twice for Norway Rats, and they participated in the province’s Dutch Elm Disease survey with seven traps, they participated in the Diamondback Moth survey with four traps, and they participated in the Bertha Armyworm survey with four traps. Three ratepayers, Sulz said, also rented skunk traps. The Agricultural Service Board, Sulz said, also bought and rented a bran bait applicator for grasshopper control to three producers. Sulz then showed photos of three different traps: A DED trap, a Bertha Armyworm trap, and a Diamondback Moth trap.

Enforcing the Soil Conservation Act, Sulz said, involved appointing one Soil Conversation Officer, who reported that no serious soil erosion issues were identified. There were also two 14-foot Haybuster Seed Drills rented to 38 producers to seed 2,472 acres; and 12 producers rented land rollers and rolled 839 acres, Sulz said.

In terms of enforcing the Animal Health Act, Sulz said, the Agricultural Service Board, there was one case of Avian Influenza identified within Cypress County by CFIA, but no action was required by the County and there were no reportable animal health issues identified. The Board, Sulz said, also promotes various topics in the ASB Newsletter.

Sulz said that Enforcing the Agricultural Service Board Act included the Agricultural Service Board presenting a summary of its activities for the previous year to Council, which contained the report that there were no extreme cases of land so infested with weeds or pests that the municipality needed to take it under supervision or restoration or issue an Order of Reclamation.

Sulz also showed a list of the Ag Service Board’s rental equipment and showed what dollar amounts it was rented for before stating that the Agricultural Service Board’s goals are to develop and deliver programs that increase understanding, awareness, and implementation of sound agricultural practices and to improve local watersheds. Sulz emphasized that the Agricultural Service Board, in accordance with this goal, tries to participate in projects, meetings, and workshops with the Milk River Watershed Council Canada and SAEWA when they can.

Another of the Agricultural Service Board’s goals, Sulz said, is providing rate payers with relevant and modern information and that included hosting a Tree Care Workshop in March in Seven Persons that was well attended, hosting an EFP Workshop in December, publishing two ASB newsletters, awarding two local students a bursary to pursue studies in agriculture, sponsoring the Farm Safety Centre that virtually trained Cypress County on farm safety, supporting the local 4-H District, supporting the Beef Pen Show, Supporting Youth Range Days, and Supporting the Ag Connections Conference.

The Agricultural Service Board had another goal of Supporting Environmental Farm Planning and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Program, Sulz said, and fulfilling that goal included assisting three producers in the process of competing and approving their Environmental Farm Plan, advertising Environmental Farm Plans and Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership programs in the ASB Newsletter and acting as a point of contact for anyone seeking information.

The Agricultural Service Board’s goal of Ag Plastic Recycling, Sulz said, included having the Hilda transfer site as the official Cleanfarms Grain Bag and Twine Recycling site in the County, County staff rolling eight grain backs in 2023, having twine bags available at transfer sites and the Cypress County office for producers and others interested in recycling twine, having 40 bags of twine collected and sent for recycling. On top of that, Sulz said, Cleanfarms is moving the chemical jug collection sites from municipal to retail over the next couple years with the collection site at Irvine closing on December 31, 2022, and the site on Range Road 63 being scheduled to close on December 31, 2024. Sulz, however, said that the Schuler site will remain open due to being so far from town. All jugs, Sulz said, also must be bagged going forward.

Council wanted to know more details about the Leafy spurge, specifically if it was on the South Saskatchewan River and if the $8,000 grant would go towards control. Sulz explained that there were nine sites that were ultimately covered by the grant and those sites were in different areas on the South Saskatchewan River. 

“Over the last several years, we’ve come to realize that you need a lot to make an impact, so instead of one here and one there throughout the county, we have to put two or three or four in one spot, so we’ve been doing that the last couple of years,” said Sulz.  “We’ll see if we see any results going forward. It does take a little while for them to get established and to see the damage.”

Sulz emphasized that to qualify for the grant, the sites had to be on the bed and shore when Council inquired about the site locations.

Ultimately, Councilor Blaine Brost made a motion to accept the Agricultural Service Board’s 2023 in Review ASB Annual Report for information and the motion was carried.

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