By Cole Parkinson
After an Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) delegation to the Municipal District of Taber earlier in the summer, councillors have put their support behind their bid for a federal sugar policy.
The ASBG explained in M.D. council chambers how at this point, they are solely looking for letters of support that can be included in the package for consideration by the federal government.
Council elected to wait for the ASBG to provide a one-sheet and a draft policy to review before making any motions of support, both of which were brought forward at council’s Aug. 10 meeting.
“Included in your package is that white paper that council had requested to review,” stated Ben Young, planning and economic development officer. “It is quite a long document but basically, the policy as you know, the aim is to double the amount sugar beets grown through tariff-rate quotas on the first 10 per cent of raw cane import by ensuring a minimum of 20 per cent of sugar is utilized in Canada is coming from sugar beets and prioritizing sugar beets in free trade agreements.”
The policy would aim to double the amount of sugar beet production through tariff-rate quotas on approximately 10 per cent of raw cane imports, ensuring a minimum of 20 per cent of sugar utilized in Canada comes from sugar beets, and prioritization of beet sugar in all free trade agreements.
As an estimate, it was stated doubling the production of sugar beets in Alberta would result in an increase in GDP of $248.2 million, and an increase in labour income of $64.5 million, an increase in employment of 2,597 jobs and a total industry impact of $312.7 million.
The ASBG one-sheet explains benefits for Canadians would include food security, economic and rural development, increased GDP, reduction in climate change, and improved competitiveness.
“At this point in time, ASBG is building the background and support for the creation of this domestic sugar policy. They have already secured support from (Bow River) MP (Martin) Shields to bring this forth as a private member’s bill, but in order for him to succeed, support from all levels of government and from industry needs to be shown. ASBG is kindly asking you to consider writing a letter of support that can be included in the package that moves forth for consideration by the Federal government,” reads the sheet provided to council.
“I have drafted up a letter of support and just one change to the letter. I just spoke with Melody (Garner-Skiba, executive director) yesterday that it would be addressed to minister Mary and the minister of small business, export promotion and international trade. So, the letter is there for council’s consideration,” added Young.
“The Municipal District of Taber is in full support of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers and their efforts related to the creation of a domestic sugar policy in Canada to prioritize the production of sugar beets. Such a policy is necessary for rural economic diversification and for Canadian farmers to compete on an even playing field with cane farmers from other countries whose product is heavily subsidized. The M.D. of Taber is home to not only the largest concentration of sugar beet growers in Western Canada, but also to Canada’s only sugar beet refining facility (Lantic Inc.) in Taber, Alberta,” reads the letter.
It also addresses how the sugar beet industry and growers in the area have been patiently waiting for an expansion in acres for quite some time.
“The sugar beet growers in the M.D. of Taber have long expressed a desire to increase production of this profitable crop and with the upcoming expansion of irrigation and highway infrastructure in the region, now is the time for Canada to prioritize domestic sugar production and capitalize on the opportunity,” continues the letter.
A motion was carried to send the letter of support.