UCP government to give agriculture research nonprofit $37M annually

Coincidentally, the government has reduced Agriculture & Forestry salaries by nearly $100 million over the last 5 years.

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
Capital grants$13
Amortization of capital assets$25
Consumption of inventory$1
Other / contingency & disaster / in-year savings$9
in million $
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.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

One reply on “UCP government to give agriculture research nonprofit $37M annually”

Another challenge with transferring research to strictly private hands or driven by private demand is that it will not necessarily benefit the public in terms of public health and animal health. Another concerning news to me is that with expansion of irrigation systems via Canada Infrastructure Bank, Dreeshen went on Bridge City News and talked about expanding food processing facilities and partnerships with Singapore, US and Mexico. Who will play what role? The Sprawl recently had an article on temporary foreign workers; we know these people work and live in poor conditions. In the same Bridge City news twitter feed we see a headline of covid outbreak at Cavendish foods plant; that then concerns me about future food processing facilities? When our desire is low food cost and for profit industry. And then we know that small farms who want to transition to regenerative agriculture struggle, because for them to make profit, they often have to wait 5-20 years to achieve desired soil health and closing the loop of efficiency on their farms. They need subsidies up front to build biodiversity systems that will serve the ecosystem and human health. Right now we reward failure, we are heavily subsidizing through insurance that will compensate lost crops and failed markets. We do not incentivize changing farming to make it more efficient and healthy, and ultimately sustainable and profitable. Those families who want to run a small family farm struggle. The emphasis is on commercialized farming. Those who do practice regenerative agriculture and are 5th generation farmers, do so, because they can afford to leave a strip of land unused to amend it.
Human health is not at the forefront of UCP’s policy, and now with privatized healthcare on the way it will be one big business. That’s my conspiracy theory. I care about food security and industrialized farming and heavy pesticide use are not the future.
Thank you for your story! More on agriculture please 🙂 it’s very mysterious ! lol

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