Growing Forward 2 programs reflect Alberta priorities

This federal-provincial-territorial initiative addresses three policy priorities with targeted programs and easier access to information.

 

April 2, 2013 was a milestone for the agricultural policy framework delivered by Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments. On that day Growing Forward, in place since 2008, transitioned into the five-year Growing Forward 2 initiative.

 

What's the difference between the two versions of Growing Forward? Wendy McCormick, Head of the Growing Forward Coordination and Program Policy Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD), explains that Growing Forward 2 programs are broadly similar to those of Growing Forward. Still, some significant modifications have been made to better meet industry needs and reflect current priorities.

 

There is a new focus on areas such as international market development, research, plant biosecurity and innovations in Growing Forward 2 programming. Other areas focusing on environmental management, livestock welfare, food safety and biosecurity, have been enhanced or expanded under Growing Forward 2.

 

“During industry information sessions in Alberta, stakeholders identified the need to connect the continuum of research and innovation with commercialization and the demands of the consumer,” says McCormick. “At the same time, the international trade scene is competitive and dynamic and Alberta needs to be strategic and effective in what we do.”

 

Growing Forward 2 reflects stakeholder views

As McCormick explains, the basis for Growing Forward 2 is a complete review of Growing Forward that was conducted over the last two years.

 

"In collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta consulted with producers, producer groups, processors and other industry stakeholders across the province,” she says. “Based on their feedback, we took a good hard look at Growing Forward and how it could evolve to meet the needs of an industry that’s moving fast. We created a comprehensive suite of programs and initiatives that is responsive to industry needs and aligns with the three priority areas identified in the national Growing Forward 2 Agreement.

 

The first priority area identified is innovation which aims to increase productivity, reduce costs, advance sustainability and lead to the development and commercialization of new products, processes and practices.

 

Strengthening competitiveness and developing markets is the next priority area and supports industry in maintaining and creating market based opportunities by providing information and tools that enable competitiveness in domestic and international markets.

 

Adaptability and industry capacity is the third priority area and supports activities that enhance the capacity of businesses and organizations to be adaptable and resilient. For example, assistance in building business assessments and plans, strengthening leadership capacity, and developing or improving systems, products, processes or practices that enables the industry to adapt to emerging opportunities.

 

Alberta has a built a suite of programs that are available to industry that advance each of these areas.

 

 

More Growing Forward 2, online or by phone

Based on stakeholder feedback, Growing Forward 2 is making it easier for producers, processors and others to learn about and apply for available programs.

 

In one change, a Growing Forward registration number is no longer required for Growing Forward 2. This removes a step in the application process and thus, makes it more convenient to apply.

 

McCormick says that since the launch of Growing Forward 2, the pace of industry inquiries and program applications has been encouraging. Currently, 22 programs are open and accepting applications. As of the end of August, 2013, Growing Forward 2 had received a total of 1171 program applications. This includes 594 applications for programs relating to Innovation, 436 for Competitiveness and Market Development programs and 161 for Adaptability and Industry Capacity programs.

 

Another priority has been easier access to information. The website at www.growingforward.alberta.ca has been completely revamped. Visitors can now quickly find the programs most relevant to them and see at a glance which programs are currently accepting applications. Once you land on a program of interest, its Terms and Conditions are right there, allowing visitors to determine at the outset whether they and their intended project are eligible for funding. Program applications are also readily available.

“Since our Growing Forward 2 launch on April 2, 2013, we have seen more than 140,000 hits on our web page from over 15,000 different visitors,” says McCormick.

 

As the full program lineup is rolled out, you’ll also see Growing Forward 2 information on ARD’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 

The Growing Forward 2 website and ARD social media tools are convenient ways for people to get information whenever they need it, but McCormick emphasizes the human touch will always be available.

 

"For each of the programs under Growing Forward 2, the information on our website includes contact information for the different program leads, plus we have a number of development officers and specialists who are available to provide advice" she says. "We invite people to contact a program lead directly by phone or email, and of course, ARD’s Ag-Info Centre is available toll-free by calling 310-FARM from anywhere in Alberta.”

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