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The Agriculture Industry in Southern Alberta

Jan 16, 2018
Looking back on the past year, it should come as no surprise that evidence continues to highlight the key contributions of the agrifood sector in southwestern Alberta to the regional economy and the province’s prosperity.

The most recent Census of Agriculture (2016) demonstrates the continued strength of the agriculture sector in Lethbridge County and its importance to the provincial economy. In 2016, total gross farm receipts exceeded $2 billon in Lethbridge County, up 90 per cent from the previous census and represents 11 per cent of the provincial total. Lethbridge County is also the only census consolidated subdivision in the province with total gross farm receipts greater than $1 billion and its total is 106 per cent larger than the next closest comparable. In addition, total farm capital in Lethbridge County was approximately $5.2 billion, an increase of 63 per cent from the previous census, while the value of all livestock & poultry in Lethbridge County was approximately $1.1 billion, an increase of 204 per cent from the previous census and accounting for 10 per cent of the provincial total. Across the board, growth in these areas outpaced that of the rest of the province.

While these numbers are positive, it’s also important to acknowledge the challenges that the agrifood sector in Alberta faces in 2018, particularly beyond Canada’s borders, such as ongoing restrictions on the export of pulses to India and continuing uncertainty around the fate of NAFTA. Helping producers and processors in south western Alberta meet those challenges is one of our goals at Economic Development Lethbridge. We continue to work to build strategic partnerships to focus on the long-term future of the Lethbridge region as an agrifood hub, especially in value-added processing. For example, we are working with the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta to help develop a common vision, plan and strategy to promote growth and investment in high-value ingredient (plant-based) processing sector in Alberta. Regional partnerships like this will advance Alberta’s status as the breadbasket of the nation and as an important exporter of safe, quality agricultural products to the world.

The current strength of southwestern Alberta’s agrifood sector is a solid foundation for future growth and investment. Lethbridge has the added advantage of being home to two post-secondary institutions with close industry connections and the willingness to respond to the needs of the industry. The recently established Cor Van Raay Southern Alberta Agribusiness Program, a joint offering of the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College, is an example of this collaborative and forward-focused approach. With our strong local economy, a stable housing market, and a young and growing population, Lethbridge continues to shine as southern Alberta’s hub for both traditional industries like agriculture and emerging technologies. At Economic Development Lethbridge, we believe our work educating investors about the opportunities in southern Alberta will pay long-term dividends and support the further growth and diversification of our economy.

Follow us on twitter @chooseleth or email if you have any questions. We look forward to connecting with you.

- Written for Farming Smarter (Spring 2018)

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