Alta. backs ag societies for youth leadership work

Agricultural societies in Alberta will get extra funding this year toward farming-related leadership development activities for youth in the province.

"Currently, the average age of Alberta’s producers is 51; we need to change that," Agriculture Minister Evan Berger said in a release Friday.

Berger pledged $2 million this year for ag societies, with a portion of the funding earmarked to "help support local programs that encourage our youth to become involved in our agriculture industry."

Seven regional ag societies — Grande Prairie, Camrose, Lloydminster, Red Deer, Olds, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge — will each get $142,850 in provincial support this year, of which 10 per cent must go directly to "agricultural youth leadership development or initiatives such as scholarships, training or youth development activities."

The extra money can also be used to "enhance farm safety programming," the province said.

The province’s 284 local-level ag societies, meanwhile, will get $2,500 each for activity-based agricultural youth leadership development activities or farm safety programming.

Remaining money from the $1 million granted to local ag societies goes to strengthen "activity-based funding" for 2011-12, the province said.

The dedicated-funding model follows a similar approach taken in 2010, when each primary ag society got a one-time provincial grant of $2,500 for farm safety events and activities. Several societies combined that funding and developed joint programming, the province noted.

"This approach was successful in increasing awareness of the importance of farm safety and it is believed the same success can be achieved in helping develop our agriculture industry’s next generation of producers, leaders and entrepreneurs," the province said.

Berger’s announcement came on the opening day of the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies’ annual convention, which runs until Sunday in Edmonton.

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