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Making The Case For More Research Investment

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has donated $500,000 to a research endowment fund at the University of Saskatchewan aimed at making Canada s grain industry more competitive.

The money will be spent over 15 years, with the first phase of research examining new policies to boost agricultural research investment in Canada.

For our grain to stay competitive in global markets, it is crucial that we find ways to reverse dwindling investment in Canadian agricultural research, said Richard Gray, recently appointed the university s first Canadian Grain Policy Chair, a position created by the endowment.

Canada s investment in crop research lags well behind other countries, such as Australia, where new policies have encouraged research investment, he said. Researchers want to look at those types of policies and various funding models, and also quantify the economic returns that flow from crop research and variety testing.

The ultimate goal of this research is to improve the profitability of grain producers, said CWB president and CEO Ian White. Encouraging policies that can spark new technology, new production systems, transportation systems, and robust grain research is the best way to help keep our sector sustainable.

Seizing emerging opportunities and capturing value from the marketplace is vital, said Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan.

This is the most important challenge facing our grain industry today, she said. The CWB s commitment to proactively support unbiased policy assessment is especially commendable at a time when there is renewed global focus on food security and demand for high-quality wheat to feed the world.

The funding will be primarily used to support graduate-student projects into better ways to fund, manage and commercialize agriculture research for farmers benefit.

The funding won t be affected even if the CWB ceases to exist. The money comes a special account for uncashed cheques issued to Western Canadian farmers for grain deliveries.

Each year there a number of farmers lose or do not cash their CWB payment cheques, said board spokeswoman Maureen Fitzhenry. The board sends out reminder letters to farmers in May and June that list cheques issued to them haven t been cashed. The money is held for six years before it s transferred into a special account. Even then, farmers who discover they didn t cash a cheque can get it re-issued at any time. [email protected]

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Forourgraintostaycompetitiveinglobalmarkets,itiscrucialthatwefindwaystoreversedwindlinginvestmentinCanadianagriculturalresearch.

RICHARD GRAY

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