Friday, June 28 was the last day for the staff at the Farmers’ Advocacy Office - it has been closed after three months of extended funding ran out.
FAO staff note there has been a lot of misinformation - including knowledge of how much funding was being provided to the FAO from the PRRD.
“We’ve had two rural directors tell our clients, and in one case, me, that the PRRD is giving us half a million dollars a year. Our contract is $18,040 a month, or $216,480,” says Anne Clayton with the organization and Aspen Grove Property Services, the contractor.
“Ministry of Energy and Mines contributes 50% of that funding.”
Meaning the PRRD provides roughly $108,000.
Since inception in 2010, the office has served the area. Since 2013 the office had been granted five renewable one year contracts to mid 2018 - with then an extension to March 2019.
FAO staff were on hand with PRRD directors in March of this year speaking to six months of more funding.
In March PRRD director Karen Goodings made a motion to extend six months of funding to the FAO office. It’s a decision that FAO staff Elvin Gowman suspects was left at three months. Clayton says no one at the FAO was told.
“When I was sent the contract to sign by the PRRD already a month in, I was told and we had two months to go,” she says.
Blaine Meek says the PRRD is missing the boat when it comes to the FAO - who help farmer’s and landowners deal with the rules and regulations that oil companies have to abide by in negotiations when other governing bodies and organizations sit by and do nothing.
“Their knowledge and advice is extremely beneficial to us and other farmers. The FAO is an excellent source of information in that regard.”
Meek said the PRRD was not using ratepayer funding to its full advantage.
“We are contributor s to the municipality through our tax dollars,” he said noting landowners request a five year extension of the FAO contract withhold limiting conditions.
“Industry feels threatened by the honest and professional advice given by the FAO.”
PRRD director Leonard Hiebert said the Farmers’ Advocacy Office was not being stopped or closed, only suspended for the time being.