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AAFC cuts signal shaky ground for research programs


May 21, 2013
By Debra Pretty-Straathof vice-president Ontario Federation of Agriculture

May 21, 2013 — When approximately 700 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
employees received notices earlier this month that their jobs could be
on the chopping block, it seems that valuable agricultural research may
be lost with them.

May 21, 2013 — When approximately 700 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada employees received notices earlier this month that their jobs could be on the chopping block, it seems that valuable agricultural research may be lost with them.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is very troubled by this news, and the longer-term implications these loses will have on the competitiveness of Canada’s agricultural industry.
 
Agri-food research is one of Canada’s great homegrown successes. Public research conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists at research stations across the country has led to numerous important discoveries to help Canadian farmers produce healthier, safer, more environmentally-sustainable food.
 

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SIGNIFICANT CONCERN THROUGHOUT THE INDUSTRY

That’s why this news of significant job cuts, especially research positions, at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is causing significant concern throughout the industry.

Is this a signal of greater cuts to come? Or does it hint to a shift away from important publicly funded agricultural research?
 
The OFA continues to advocate for greater investments in agri-food research through direct public sector investments and a robust research infrastructure that incentives and supports private sector research and development.
 
The OFA knows agri-food research is a critical tool for Ontario farmers, providing new technologies and practices to improve productivity. Research also brings us new agricultural products and helps sustain Ontario’s soil, air and water resources.
 
The recent announcement of cuts to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada employees includes scientists, engineers, biologists and research managers.

AGENDA FOR INNOVATION

While it is unclear exactly how the proposed staffing cuts will impact the services to Canadian farmers, the OFA is raising a red flag about how cuts will impact the federal agency’s agenda for innovation.
 
Together with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the OFA is advocating for a number of specific research-related issues in Canada, in light of these recent cuts.

We are encouraging partnerships with research firms that would allow external resources to use existing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada infrastructures and laboratories.

Financial support should be provided to local organizations that may want to use research sites that are targeted for closure.

CAN'T LOSE LONG-TERM RESEARCH

And we are advocating for maintaining key agricultural research positions to ensure long-term research work is not lost.
 
The agriculture sector has long called for increasing public funded research to ensure the Canadian agriculture brand remains an innovative leader at home and in international markets.

Let’s not start a slow and steady landslide that sees our research innovation leaching away.
 


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