"Farmer-directed" research kicks off in Alberta

Agriculture research and extension in Alberta has been through an incredible few weeks, to say the least. In the last month, several research programs have moved to new institutions and over 250 agriculture-based staff have been let go, as promised in the last provincial budget.

The huge changes beg the question: what will provincially-funded agriculture research in Alberta look like going forward?

One of the ways research will change in Alberta is through an arms-length, not for profit group called Results Driven Agriculture Research — or RDAR.

David Chalack, interim chair of RDAR, says that as of October 2020, the delivery model is an opportunity to bring crop and livestock research together under a funding entity that will be focused on — and driven by — producer input.

“I think the government of Alberta, through the last election, heard from its stakeholders that the research priorities and processes was internally operated through the department. There was just not the touch points or the input that could be, or should have been, generated, and even the research priorities when government takes over. So now it’s put back into the hands of producers,” Chalack explains.

Through nine appointed board members, RDAR will begin by administering a $37 million fund.

With an emphasis on the “farmer-led” research that Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen and the United Conservative (UCP) government are trying to push forward, it raises the question of whether farmers are the right ones to be making the decisions when it comes to research. Chalack says farmers certainly have the potential, and in general have the perspectives that can be very important to decisions for this organization.

“They are populating an advisory board for us. When I tell you that it’s made up of 50 individuals, or 50 entities — the boards, the commissions, the post-secondary institutions, as well as the applied research group — they certainly have influence on our policies and decisions that we make,” says Chalack. “We have very very intensive and broad discussions with that group to come up with the priorities, and then it is up to the board to determine how we fund research.”

Check out the full conversation between David Chalack, and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney, below:

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