Agriculture isn’t usually an agenda item when it comes to City of Winnipeg committee meetings, but one city councillor is trying to change that.
Last week St. Vital Councillor Brian Mayes proposed that the city use some of the cash earmarked for innovation to promote the province’s Grain Innovation Hub, created in 2014 to bring together business and government in the hope of furthering research and development in the grain sector.
“We’d like to do something to help out the Grain Innovation Hub with promotion, possibly, I’d like to do something in conjunction with University of Manitoba where they are doing a lot of really good things,” said Mayes, whose funding proposal was ultimately rejected by the city’s standing policy committee on innovation on technical grounds.
But despite that decision, Mayes said he will find a way to allocate funding to promote the Grain Innovation Hub, even if it’s a small amount from his ward budget. He said given that the federal and provincial governments have committed $20 million to the hub — with an additional $13 million coming from the private sector — it only makes sense that the city would lend some support as well.
More importantly, Mayes said he would like to see a greater recognition of the role agriculture and agribusiness play in Manitoba’s capital city on a regular basis.
“As I was educated more about the issues and the industry, I really did come to realize this is a really big part of our future and our city,” he said. “Agribusiness is not part of our past, it’s part of our present and part of our future… so let’s celebrate that and let the public know about it.”
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler agreed that any promotion the Grain Innovation Hub receives is a positive, adding that one in every eight jobs in the province is tied to agriculture.
“That’s why it’s so key to have development,” said Eichler. “Manitoba has been a hub of innovation and business in the grain sector for many decades… and we love talking about the good news and the great things that are happening in agriculture and how it impacts those in the city.”
One the hub’s most recent contributions was a $366,000 investment in organic grain research at the University of Manitoba, the minister noted.
While still exploring his funding options, Mayes said he has spoken to the mayor’s office and would ultimately like to be able to facilitate an agribusiness summit of some sort, something that would bring business together while also letting the public know about the role agriculture plays in Winnipeg’s economy.
“I think this is something we should celebrate,” he said.