Alta. ag research group on pins and needles over funding future

The current agreement for Alberta government funding of the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund expires March 31, 2018, and the non-profit, industry-owned organization is not sure if a new agreement will be implemented.

Doug Walkey, executive director of ACIDF, said board members have met with provincial government officials about a new agreement, hoping to obtain the next in a series of government grants for discretionary agricultural research dating back to 2001.

“It’s taking long enough that it’s becoming discouraging,” said Walkey about the waiting game.

“The industry has got reason to be concerned because we have been the main conduit of research funding from the province into discretionary projects. The province does put quite a bit of money into research programs directly. In the crop sector they put about $12 million a year into research facilities and staffing.”

Walkey estimated there is about $100,000 in ACIDF money left to spend, but it is fully committed to various crop research projects.

ACIDF’s structure is unique in that it is fully funded by the provincial government but is a private non-profit company guided by a board of directors from crop sectors and commissions.

Since its inception, the fund has invested more than $100 million in more than 600 research projects.

Crop commissions have been asking the province for a new agreement and some sectors are concerned about funding availability.

Among them are the Potato Growers of Alberta.

“With the province losing our ACIDF funding after the crop year 2017, that’s going to put a big strain on all the crops as far as coming up with necessary dollars,” said PGA executive director Terence Hochstein.

“That provided a huge amount of research funding for us. I would say on average probably 75 percent of our money was leveraged through ACIDF.

“With ALMA (Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency) losing its status and then ACIDF, that’s going to hurt the cropping industry big time.”

The provincial government dismantled ALMA last October.

Walkey said the provincial agriculture department has been generous in the past and is aware of ACIDF and its work.

He is proud of the fund’s use of dollars, noting that in the 2008 agreement that provided $5 million over five years, ACIDF was able to invest some of the money and grow it into $5.8 million to spend on research projects.

“Name me another funding agency through the government that can actually tell you they invested more than they received,” said Walkey.

“We run a really tight ship here.”

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