Last week, the Alberta government announced that they had finalized funding for Results Driven Agriculture Research.
Created this past March, RDAR is an arms-length non-profit that determines industry-wide research priorities then funds those priorities, which include:
- Enhanced productivity, profitability, and competitiveness
- Sustainable and responsible agricultural production
- Market demands: food safety, quality, value-added products, and diversification
- Extension and knowledge transfer
Board members of the RDAR include farmers and ranchers, as well as researchers and industry representatives.
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Over the next 10 years, the provincial government will give RDAR $37 million annually for operations and to fund agricultural research in the province.
It’s not clear from this announcement where exactly the $37 million in annual funding will come from, but here’s where the Agriculture and Forestry ministry plans to spend its budget over the 2020–2021 fiscal year:
|Salaries, wages & employee benefits||$192|
|Supplies & services||$546|
|Grants to others||$85|
|Amortization of capital assets||$25|
|Consumption of inventory||$1|
|Other / contingency & disaster / in-year savings||$9|
Fiscal Plan 2020–23, p. 220
Of all the expense categories, I’d think that “grants to others” would make the most sense. If so, then the $37 million in annual funding would be about 44% of the total grant funding available from the ministry.
That’s $40 million less than what they spent on non-capital grant funding during the last fiscal year. Unfortunately, previous years didn’t delineate the capital and non-capital grants, so it’s hard to see how that grant funding has changed over the years.
Now, some of that $37 million in funding will be used by RDAR to fund the transfer of researchers and researchers from Agriculture and Forestry to postsecondary institutions. The researchers and technicians who were working on this research would’ve been included in the $192 million in salaries and wages listed above.
However, last year, salaries and wages for Agriculture and Forestry was $245 million. The ministry is spending $53 million less on salaries and wages this year than they did last year. Plus, it was $247 million in 2018–2019, $259 million in 2017–2018, $278 million in 2016–2017, and $281 in 2015–2016.
In other words, salaries and benefits in the Agriculture and Forestry ministry has dropped by nearly $100 million over the last 5 years.
That’s unsustainable. That’s also job cuts. You can’t cut nearly $18 million from department salaries every year for 5 years without losing jobs and without it eventually resulting in the elimination of programmes.
And that’s why we’re at where we are: offloading government-funded agriculture research onto universities and colleges.