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Sask. to expand rural extension

Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Ministry says call centres and websites aren’t cutting it for farmers needing provincial extension services.

Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud announced Jan. 29 his ministry will open new rural extension offices in three communities and assign more extension staff to rural communities.

“We have heard overwhelmingly from farmers and ranchers that a telephone line or website is insufficient to meet their current needs,” Bjornerud said in a release. “Today’s announcement puts our focus back on the farm gate, where it should be.”

The Agriculture Ministry will thus open new offices in Watrous and Kindersley, and reorganize its Moose Jaw call centre, the Agriculture Knowledge Centre (AKC), reopening its front doors to the public as a regional office.

Also, Bjornerud said, the ministry will assign a new regional services branch to work directly with farmers, ranchers and industry agrologists “to ensure producers have access to the latest technical knowledge and research results.”

Bjornerud said the ministry will also take steps to increase awareness of the services now available.

“Producers need to know where they can access information and ministry services,” he said. “Right now, some of our offices don’t even have signs on them. That will change.”

With these changes comes a reorganization of the ministry’s structure. While 15 ministry staff will be transferred to rural regional offices, layoffs or termination notices will also go to 20 permanent full-and part-time employees due to the restructuring.

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