STRONG RESEARCH PROGRAMS help farmers produce more efficiently, increase crop quality, manage pests and lead to a safe, consistent, high quality supply of locally grown food and feed.
To date in 2009, the government has announced a five year (2009 to 2013) federal-provincial framework for agriculture and agri-food research as part of Growing Forward (the new Federal-Provincial Agricultural Policy Framework). Several new research programs have been launched in 2009, but over a year into the agreement, funds are not yet flowing to projects. There is potential for significant funding for important research, but this will be a short term government commitment.
Farmers in Ontario need the government to complement the project-based funding model in Growing Forward with a long term commitment to public research funding at the government level where much of the public plant breeding and field crop pest management research is done.
Federal government contributions to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) research branch have been stagnant for the last 10 years and the number of full time employees has been continually decreasing.
In 1994, $340 million was invested in A-base research, the public research done at AAFC, which in 2009 dollars equates to $458 million. The $280 million allocated to A-base research in 2009 is not enough to maintain the research infrastructure that will keep us competitive.
To make up the difference, private research is needed too, but there are currently insufficient returns on cereal and pulse varieties for large scale investments. “Financial return” to capital on basic agronomic research on crops across the board is also insufficient.
By 2012, 95 percent of private sector research will be in three crops: canola, corn and soybeans, with only two percent directed to wheat. But even in those three top crops, very little will be directed to basic agronomics. The public sector has an important role to fill this void if we are to remain competitive as a country.
Grain Growers of Canada in partnership with GFO and agricultural groups from across the province and the country has the following ask of government:
- Put forward a renewed focus on public research in agriculture to support Canadian farmers
- Double the A-based research budget in AAFC to total $560 million over a period of time, and
- Develop a succession plan to replace retiring scientists
The advancement of agricultural research in Canada is critical to secure the prosperity of Canadian farmers for the future. Canada needs to keep their edge in the world marketplace through strong and steady research investments. •