Irrigation deal saves centre

Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre also seeks international investors

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Saskatchewan irrigators say a new five-year agreement has saved the province’s irrigation research centre.

However, money from other countries will be needed to keep the facility on the leading edge.

The Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre (CSIDC) at Outlook was “in peril” when the last agreement expired in 2013, said Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association director Larry Lee.

He told the recent SIPA annual meeting that the two industry partners at the centre — SIPA and the Irrigation Crop Diversification Corp. (ICDC) — were upset when they found out the centre was possibly on the chopping block.

“We immediately wrote a fairly pointed letter to the minister of agriculture for Canada, carbon copied to our other partners,” Lee said.

“We must have hit a nerve because we immediately got a reply.”

An assistant deputy minister and other officials visited the centre in the fall of 2013.

“As of this year, we’ve signed a new agreement for another five years,” Lee said.

However, he said the fact the federal government could even think of closing the centre continues to cause concern.

The centre began in 1949 as a Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration pre-development farm and gained demonstration farm status in 1967 after the construction of the Gardiner Dam.

It was renamed the Saskatchewan Irrigation Development Centre in 1986 as a result of an agreement between the federal and provincial governments. Two major funding programs were put in place.

SIPA and ICDC joined the partnership in 1998, when it was renamed CSIDC. The University of Saskatchewan came on board for the five-year agreement signed in 2008.

Delegations from other countries visit the centre regularly, and Lee said they often show up after Canadian and Saskatchewan trade missions. Irrigation technology is at the top of many countries’ wish lists and they know exactly where CSIDC is, he added.

However, the programs that funded so much research and development have been cut.

“Right now we’re pursuing and entering into the possibility of obtaining research dollars from other countries,” Lee said.

“The federal government has opened that door up to us because we have to get more money for research because of cutbacks.”

SIPA chair Roger Pederson said it would be a disaster if the centre closed, and industry has heard the federal government “loud and clear” that it has to take the lead in finding more money.

“There are a number of countries who are willing and able to put money into CSIDC in exchange for some technology that they can get back,” Pederson said.

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