AgriInnovation among new cluster of agri-programs

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The sequel to Growing Forward is going to introduce three new characters — all of whom will be seen mainly on the outside of the farm gate.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on Dec. 7 provided previews of three new programs to launch April 1, 2013 under the umbrella of Growing Forward 2, the federal, provincial and territorial governments’ next five-year agriculture policy funding framework.

AgriCompetitiveness is expected to “target investments to help strengthen the agriculture and agri-food industry’s capacity to adapt and be profitable in domestic and global markets.”

AgriMarketing is to “help industry improve its capacity to adopt assurance systems, such as food safety and traceability, to meet consumer and market demands.”

AgriInnovation is meant to invest in the ag sector’s “capacity to develop and commercialize new products and technologies.”

AgriInnovation will begin accepting applications “immediately,” but will make no funding decisions before April 1.

AgriMarketing and AgriCompetitiveness are to accept applications starting early in 2013, the federal government said. Some information on AgriInnovation is already available online; details on the other two programs are to be available in the new year.

The federal Ag Department said it’s “proactively providing information to farmers and the industry so that they are familiar with the kind of support that will be available and so they may plan their applications well in advance.”

Investments

AgriInnovation, the government said, is to support two “industry-led” streams — research and development (R+D), and commercialization — and to build on two programs, the Agricultural Innovation program and the Canadian Agri-Science Clusters initiative, both of which will expire on March 31.

The commercialization stream would issue loans for the “demonstration, commercialization and adoption of innovative agri-based products, technologies, processes or services.”

The R+D stream, meanwhile, would provide non-repayable funding to support either a national-level “agri-science cluster” — which co-ordinates a critical mass of private- and public-sector scientific expertise — or a national, regional or local-level “agri-science project,” in the form of a single research project or set of smaller projects that are more “focused” than a cluster.

Not to be confused with the current AgriMarketing program — an export market development program which has stopped taking applications and will expire March 31 — the new AgriMarketing program is to invest in projects that “enhance the sector’s access to international markets by differentiating and promoting Canadian products and sectors, and in “market development tools” needed to compete globally.

The government said, the new AgriMarketing would back the development of “assurance systems and standards” to give Canadian products a marketing edge through “credible quality and health claims,” such as food safety and traceability systems.

AgriCompetitiveness, meanwhile, is to make “directed investments that will help the sector adapt to rapidly changing and emerging global and domestic opportunities and issues, respond to market trends and enhance business and entrepreneurial capacity.”

Continuous funding

Several commodity groups that provide support for R+D and market development lined up to hail the advance notice on the new programs.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association said the new programs’ April 1 start date will ensure “continuous funding for critically important existing programs like the Beef Science Cluster.”

Rob Meijer, president of the beef industry’s market development body Canada Beef, said the GF2 programming “specifically aligns with (the organization’s) three-year strategic priorities: to brand-differentiate, target priority markets of value, and venture into new emerging market possibilities.”

Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said the GF2 programs “will allow the canola industry to partner strategically with the public sector on research and innovation.”

The Alberta Barley Commission said it’s “already working with stakeholders to best plan and utilize these funding programs for barley farmers.”

“We’re at a crossroads where we have a real opportunity to grow the barley industry with the right kind of funding,” Matt Sawyer, the commission’s newly re-elected chairman, said in a release.

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