Grain groups call for restored research funding

Four Canadian grain groups have issued a joint call for Ottawa to double its funding for agronomic research over the next 10 years.

The proposal, put forward Monday by the Grain Growers of Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Atlantic Grains Council and Federation des producteurs de culture commerciales du Quebec, “would bring funding back to 1994 levels by 2020,” the groups said.

“At a time when most industrialized countries are making huge investments in farming to capitalize on growing world food demand, public research funding for agronomics in Canada has dropped 40 per cent since 1994 after adjusting for inflation, resulting in a serious loss of both research infrastructure and scientists,” the groups said.

“Agriculture as an industry turns every dollar of research investment into a $10 economic benefit for Canada through the growth of the domestic food sector, increased exports and lower food costs,” FPCCQ vice-chair William Van Tassel of Hebertville, Que., said in the groups’ release Monday.

Agronomic research is estimated to yield 40-60 per cent economic returns for the “whole society,” the groups said.

Moreover, they said, “at a time when demand is expected to rise significantly and wheat supplies are being threatened worldwide by an outbreak of Ug99, the time for government to invest is now.”

Increased public research funding helps develop crops that are more efficient, higher in quality, healthier and more resistant to disease, pests and extreme weather conditions, the groups said.

“There is no better investment for Canada than an investment in food,” said Carstairs, Alta. farmer Doug Robertson, president of the Grain Growers of Canada. “We have some of the most fertile farmland in the world with access to the third largest supply of the world’s fresh water and we are not maximizing our crop production.”

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