Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Ag labs among federal stimulus beneficiaries

REVISED, May 11 — The federal government’s $250 million, two-year program to modernize federal laboratories will see a number of agricultural and agri-food labs share in the funding.

MPs on Friday announced $4.9 million in funding for upgrades at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Saskatoon lab; and $250,000 for upgrades to the growth control room at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research station at Morden, Man.

Separate funding announcements Saturday included $5.4 million for expanded greenhouse facilities at AAFC’s Crops and Livestock Research Centre at Charlottetown; and $5 million to replace older greenhouse facilities at the Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre at Swift Current, Sask.

Also, on Monday, the government pledged almost $3.5 million for renovations at the CFIA lab at Lethbridge, Alta.

The two-year laboratory funding plan was pledged in the 2009 federal budget, in which the government’s “Economic Action Plan” called for an “accelerated investment program” to modernize federal labs.

The funding at the Morden station is to modernize a growth control room used by scientists to develop a new stem rust-resistant type of wheat.

At Charlottetown’s Harrington field research site, a 600-square metre greenhouse and a headerhouse (a large, open work area next to the greenhouse) will replace the centre’s aging greenhouses. The new facility is expected to enhance the research capabilities of scientists doing work with insect populations, plant breeding, health research on plants, and other work in the bioscience sector, the government said.

Of the funding allocated to the Charlottetown project, $594,000 is booked for 2009-10, and $4.84 million for 2010-11.

At Swift Current’s SPARC, funding will go to replace an out-of-date facility with a 700-square metre greenhouse to allow researchers to effectively ensure the safe entry of new food and feed products and processes to the marketplace.

SPARC’s research is being conducted in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to develop new standards for innovative food products and processes, the government said, and it would cost more to repair and maintain the existing SPARC facility than to replace it with a newer, more efficient one.

Of the $5.34 million booked for the SPARC work, $670,000 will be allocated in 2009-10, and $4.67 million in 2010-11.

At the CFIA lab in Saskatoon, “this funding will provide jobs for workers as we upgrade the ventilation systems,” local MP Brad Trost said Friday.

And at CFIA in Lethbridge, the funding will go toward replacement of “critical building systems, including the electrical and ventilation systems,” local MP Rick Casson said in a release Monday.

The Lethbridge lab handles testing for human and animal health and is also Canada’s lead lab for developing Canada’s response capacity against bioterrorism.

“With this funding, our scientists and researchers will have healthier and modern work environments that will better support research and development, leading to better health and safety outcomes for Canadians,” Casson said.

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