Saskatchewan ponders changes to ag extension model

A rail car from SGCC’s fleet. (Dave Bedard photo)

Saskatchewan’s agriculture ministry is considering an overhaul of its delivery system for ag extension services, in time for a new federal/provincial funding framework next year.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart on Tuesday announced a new online survey on the subject for farmers, ranchers and agribusiness operators, running until the end of the month.

Extension delivery in Saskatchewan includes staff specialists who provide business information, advice and support out of regional offices and at extension events; a toll-free phone line to the province’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre in Moose Jaw; and assorted print and electronic publications.

The survey — which includes general questions about farm type and size, preferred modes of communication and access to broadband and wireless data, among others — is expected to “help identify the current and future needs of farmers and ranchers and the most effective way to deliver services.”

Focus group discussions will also be hosted around the province “to help identify what is working and possible gaps producers may be finding,” the province said.

Information collected through the survey and consultations is expected to help determine “how extension services should be delivered,” the province said, noting it expects to have a new model up and running when the next federal/provincial  agriculture policy funding framework starts in April 2018.

The online survey can be found online and will be open until March 31, the province said. A report is expected to be shared publicly once the survey and focus group discussions have wrapped.

“The agriculture industry is forever evolving and our extension activities need to be driving sustainable growth and ensuring our producers stay competitive in a global market,” Stewart said.

“Through our consultations, we need the voice of those who access our services currently, as well as those who don’t, to ensure we move our extension activities in the right direction.” — Network

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