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Agriculture research meeting gathers input

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OLDS – About 80 people attended a provincial government-sponsored information session at the Olds College Alumni Centre on Jan. 23 held to gauge producer views on the future of agricultural research in Alberta.

It was one of several such meetings being held across the province to gather input on what farmer-led research means to Albertans, farmer-led research priorities, and possible governance models for delivering research.

Bob Clark, former chairman of Olds College board of governors, was one of those in attendance. He said he hopes the process will accomplish a number of things.

“I thought it was a good exercise,” said Clark. “I think they need to restructure the research capacity in agriculture and related industries into a not-for-profit organization that reports directly to the minister with all the players in the game represented.

“As thing are now, I think it is not very well coordinated and this is a good time to reorganize it and refocus it.”

Any updated system “would be better for the producer, the consumer and the environment and there would be less bureaucracy and more action,” he said.

The Olds meeting saw participants break into groups and provide written comments on a host of related questions, including the following:

• What is the best approach to establishing agriculture research priorities in Alberta?

• How can agreement be reached when priorities do not align?

• How should the government of Alberta allocate research funding?

• How should industry allocate research funding?

• What factors should drive research priorities?

• Are there gaps and/or opportunities identified when priorities are described?

• Do you find it easy to access the research you need for your farm or ranch?

• What is important for the government of Alberta to consider in evaluating different ways to advance innovation in the agriculture industry?

Comments coming back from the discussion tables included the following:

• There is a role for private industry but there is a role for government where no private group is able to make money.

• The model needs to be simple. Industry already has priorities set so work together rather than re-invent the wheel.

• Research needs to align with what will help farmers.

• There needs to be a clear process for farmers to know who to contact.

• Government should serve industry, not have policy drive research.

Sarah Murrant, engagement specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, said the Olds session saw a lot of good suggestions and comments made and recorded.

“On farmer-led research there was a lot of dialogue around the room on how farmers need to be involved and priorities need to be identified, but also that it needs to be a collaborative approach that involves some key experts,” said Murrant.

“When it came to identifying priorities, there was a lot of dialogue on how they need to be priorities that focus on profitability, on economics, on increasing the yields, but also how do we consider the priorities that are for 20, 30, 40 years down the road.

“There was a lot of conversation about partnerships, cooperation and collaboration.”

Information gathered at the sessions, as well as the results of an online survey, will be used to compile a report for the ministry. A date for the report’s release has not been set.




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