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The next big step for the Agricultural Institute

The Ontario Farmer – While it took the Agricultural Institute of Canada two years to craft its national agriculture research policy, it now faces at least as daunting a challenge selling it to farm and food industry groups and governments.

When asked for reaction to the policy after its release, the general reaction from farm groups was we’re still studying it or we’ll look into it.  However the Canadian Pork Council said the policy’s main points fit with the sector’s research objectives.

The National Food Strategy of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture places a lot of importance on research.  In its pre-election commentary, Cereals Canada noted the need for research and innovation and encouraging broad research partnerships between producers, governments and private companies.  The AIC policy has this covered.

Regardless of who is the federal minister after the Oct. 19 election, the policy will need his or her support as well as the provincial ministers if it’s to have a lasting impact.  It would be beneficial to gain the support of the opposition parties.  The report stresses the need to balance basic and applied research.  The latter received most of the attention from the Harper government.

AIC CEO Serge Buy said at the AIC’s conference this summer that his group would be taking the policy to farm organizations and others after its release.  Looks like he will be attending a lot of farm meetings this winter.

To restore a common direction to agriculture research in Canada, step one for the AIC has to be obtaining the backing of farm groups and politicians for the proposed national body charged with developing medium and long-term agricultural research priorities and strategies.  All the commodity roundtables won’t compensate for what this body should be able to do.

Many farm groups are rightly concerned that science is taking a back seat in government decision making these days.  A well, many consumers have no appreciation of modern food production and the steps that farmers are raking to be sustainable.  The co-ordinating body could also be a useful voice for dealing with both those issues while responding to the distorted criticisms of modern agriculture.  It can learn from what Agriculture More Than Ever and Farm & Food Care have accomplished.

Industry will also have to hold AIC to its promise to keep reviewing the policy to ensure its relevance in our fast changing world.

Canada also needs to become a more active participant in international research ventures to make sure we are involved in and benefit from future innovations and discoveries.

Alex Binkley for the Ontario Farmer

View the article here.