Alberta farm groups propose new research model

A ‘white paper’ by crop and livestock groups calls for a new way of doing things

The provincial government should “play a role” but needs to work closely with the ag sector to develop a new research funding model, say Alberta farm groups.

“Both Agriculture Minister (Devin) Dreeshen and Premier (Jason) Kenney have been vocal about the need to put research back in the hands of producers,” Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley research director Lauren Comin said in a commentary on the websites of the two groups. “Producer groups look forward to working with the minister and staff to see their vision come to fruition.”

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The two crop commissions along with Alberta Beef Producers and other farm groups have sent Dreeshen a “white paper” that lays out “the research needs of our industry and proposes a path forward to maximize our success.”

While recognizing the need for spending restraint, the paper decries the ad hoc nature of government research funding saying it is inefficient and unnecessarily constrains research efforts.

It also proposes setting up an “arm’s-length organization” (with a “lean, efficient administration” overseen by a board with equal representation from the crop and livestock sectors) to allocate research dollars.

The white paper also proposes several concrete steps.

One is to integrate the Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe with the University of Alberta. That would not only strengthen the university’s existing wheat-breeding program but boost the work of the centre’s barley-breeding efforts, its says.

“This facility is the home to three barley breeders and a complement of supporting scientists,” Comin wrote in her commentary. “However, the program has struggled in recent years from changing and restrictive government policies and constraints on staffing.”

The document also has specific recommendations on extension services; the Crop Diversification Centre at Brooks; research on apiculture, livestock and poultry; and transparency in allocating research dollars.

A link to the 22-page white paper can be found at albertabeef.org (opens as a PDF).

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Glenn Cheater

Glenn Cheater is a veteran journalist who has covered agriculture for more than two decades. His mission is to showcase the ideas, passions, and stories of Alberta farmers and ranchers.

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