Agricultural Service Boards (ASB's) are unique to Alberta, first established by Alberta Agriculture in 1945.
- Idea was to provide local authority over the growing problems of weed infestation, and soil erosion from wind & water.
- Previous efforts to handle these concerns through provincial staff had not been effective, & local programs with provincial coordination & technical support seemed to be an answer.
- In 1945, enabling provincial legislation was passed. The Agricultural Service Board Act allowed rural jurisdictions to set up local boards to deal with weeds & soil erosion, with the Agricultural Fieldmen hired to carry out the board's programs.
- Once formed, the board became advisory to the local municipal council and the Alberta Minister of Agriculture.
- Early ASB's consisted of a mix of municipal councilors, producers, and local Alberta Agriculture Specialists.
ASB programs develop over time, and vary considerably across Alberta due to regional differences in land use, demographics, and local political direction. In general, they include:
- Invasive plant species control programs; includes roadside vegetation management & enforcing the Weed Control Act.
- Soil & water conservation programming; includes enforcement of the Soil Conservation Act and implementation of local Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (AESA) programs
- Facilitation of Agriculture Canada's Shelterbelt Tree Program
- Encouragement of Alberta's crop seed cleaning & treating plants including annual certification inspections
- Pesticide container recycling programs
- Sustainable livestock management education/awareness
- Specialized agricultural equipment rentals
- Agricultural pest programs; enforcing Agricultural Pests Act
- Coordination of selected provincial agricultural program initiatives, including producer education programs and agricultural pest surveys.
Alberta's rural municipalities carry the largest share of funding ASB programs. As a result, Alberta's 67 ASB's have become more independent from the province in their programming. Other program funding comes from provincial and federal grants, program user fees, and partnerships with industry.
ASB's core areas of expertise remain weed control, soil & water resource conservation, & pest management. However, they have grown into strong advocates for their local agriculture communities, and the Agricultural Fieldmen who manage them are viewed as key contacts for ecological resource sustainability. ASB's now work with provincial and federal government departments of Agriculture & Environment, various private agricultural & environmental organizations, private industry, & federal/international organizations.
Since 1967, all Agricultural Service Boards from across Alberta have come together during their annual provincial conference to discuss and take action on shared issues of regional, provincial, national, and international concern.