Excerpts from the agriculture section of the Moving Alberta Forward report by the Alberta Competitiveness Council. It refers to the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation, which collects a levy of .99 per cent from growers of 25 crops, with contributions matched by the national government.
The Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation experience offers a conceptual model that could effectively address Canada’s research and innovation gap in cereal grains. While more detailed analysis would need to be undertaken on how to adapt aspects of the model, including financial mechanisms, the task team believes this conceptual model offers great promise not only for Alberta, but other western provinces.
In order to anchor research and innovation for the grains and oilseeds sector in Alberta on a sustained and long-term commitment, the Government of Alberta through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will engage industry stakeholders and other western provinces to champion and develop a western Canadian research and innovation framework for the sector. The framework would provide a governance structure and stable funding approach, and focus on basic research, agronomics and extension, and market development.
Importantly, the framework would engage producers in contributing to and directing research and innovation priorities. It would also recognize the important role that government and academic and research institutions play in basic scientific research that underpins plant development and commercialization.
Historically, universities and government research operations dominated plant breeding. This model is no longer as effective or responsive as newer models, where private companies invest in developing new varieties in return for premium prices they charge producers for their seeds. This new model of crop variety development has outper formed the old model . Western Canadian farmers have voted with their seeders by maximizing the acres planted with canola and reducing acres planted with cereals such as wheat and barley.
Australia offers a model that could be adapted for the Alberta and western Canadian context. This model assures returns on private investment in varietal development through end-point royalty, rather than charging upfront premium prices. The Australian model also enables farmers to save seeds.