| ||Carol Bettac
“The most valuable and strongest thing about AESA Council is the sharing, coordinating and collaborating – the knowledge network on environmental programs, issues and concerns. Council brings people together for a better understanding of what’s going on and what’s important in environmental issues in agriculture,” says Carol Bettac.
Bettac grew up on a mixed farm near Fort Saskatchewan. She has a BSc in Animal Science and an MBA from the University of Alberta. After working as an agricultural fieldman, she joined Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development as a conservation coordinator. Then she served as Program Manager for the AESA Program for six years.
Last year, she became Technical Director of the Prairies West Region for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA). She is also PFRA’s representative on AESA Council.
PFRA has been working with rural people for more than 60 years, focusing on the sustainable use of soil and water resources. “PFRA’s role is completely complementary to AESA’s,” Bettac explains. “PFRA’s mandate is really about environmental stewardship, and it has a huge role to play in this area, with its many programs, initiatives and technical skills. Membership on AESA Council helps in aligning and synchronizing efforts with other agencies to provide better service to the industry.”
A strong proponent of partnering, Bettac is involved in various collaborative initiatives. For instance, she is a member of an AESA committee that aims to strengthen interagency cooperation for improved agro-environmental programming. She also sits on the multi-stakeholder board of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company, and she co-chairs the Environmental Working Group for Alberta, as part of the nation-wide Agricultural Policy Framework (APF).
Bettac says PFRA is currently moving in a new direction to better address current and emerging challenges facing the agriculture industry. Through partnerships to share research information, technical expertise and tools, the agency is helping to achieve the APF goal of making Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry a world leader in food safety, innovation and environmentally responsible agriculture.
“A key aspect of PFRA’s new direction is to improve agriculture’s ability to enhance natural capital through environmental stewardship,” says Bettac. Natural capital refers to the value of the functions of a healthy environment – like water quality protection and habitat conservation – to our society.
She adds, “PFRA will be partnering with other agencies to find ways to transform agri-environmental challenges into economic opportunities, so producers and other landowners can make a living while doing things that have a public benefit.”
Stewardship is at the heart of the ranch west of Cochrane owned by Erik Butters’ family. “The previous generations ran the place with the long-term viability in mind, both economically and environmentally, although they might not have thought of it in those terms,” says Butters. “It certainly is important to us now. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy being on AESA Council and why I’m also involved with Cows and Fish.”
He adds, “We need to be environmentally sensitive in order that we continue because we don’t want to foul our own nest. And we need to be seen to be environmentally in tune in order that our customers will feel good about consuming our product.”
The ranch and love of the ranching life have been in the Butters family for several generations. He says, “My daughter and her husband are on the ranch with me now, and they’d be fourth generation. I guess my granddaughter would be fifth, but I can’t exactly say she’s working the ranch – she’s two!” His younger daughter is at veterinary college and helps out on the ranch when she can.
Butters left his ranch for only four years, to obtain a business degree at the University of Calgary in the 1970s. He says, “I enjoy the entrepreneurship of [ranching] – trying to grow a product and sell it in the marketplace and trying to make a dollar doing it. I enjoy the lifestyle, and I enjoy where I am, in the foothills.”
In addition to serving on the AESA Council, Butters is an active member of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), a producer organization with over 35,000 members. He has held various positions in ABP over the years and is currently the vice-chair.
ABP uses a wide range of initiatives to achieve its mission to strengthen the sustainability and competitiveness of the Alberta beef industry. Although dealing with the BSE situation has taken most of its energy in the last two years, the organization is involved in diverse activities related to policy and regulatory development, the environment, animal care, feedlots, research and beef promotion.
A key component of ABP’s environmental activities is to provide funding for Cows and Fish. This program works with producers and communities across Alberta to enhance the health of riparian areas.
Butters’ own involvement with Cows and Fish shows his commitment to stewardship. He says, “Cows and Fish have used the riparian area on our ranch as a learning tool. We’ve had riparian management workshops and riparian condition assessment workshops here, as a way of helping people understand how riparian zones work and what it takes to protect them.”