The federal and Saskatchewan governments are investing $1.25 million over five years in a new research chair — to focus on breeding forages.
The new chair’s emphasis will be on “developing new forage varieties with improved yield,” Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said during the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association convention in Moose Jaw.
Stewart said Saskatchewan livestock have to be fed a large part of the year, making forage research important.
“It’s probably the one area of research that hasn’t properly been addressed over the last number of years,” he said. “While we can raise enough feed for our livestock in this province, there are probably more efficient and better ways that we could do it with different varieties and better genetics in some of our forage crops.”
Industry groups, including the SSGA, Saskatchewan Forage Council and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, asked for more forage research during Growing Forward 2 consultations. A 2012 Beef, Feed and Forage Review also recommended more forage research.
The forage chair is part of a strategic research program at the University of Saskatchewan. Stewart said that research program supports 15 agriculture chairs at the University of Saskatchewan and Western Beef Development Centre.
But the forage funding announcement comes on the heels of cuts to forage research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Beef research out of Manitoba’s Brandon Research Station is moving to Lacombe, Alta. The federal government is also closing the Grassland Applied Technology Centre in Kamloops, B.C., along with research facilities at Stavely and Onefour, Alta. Rangeland research is being consolidated at Swift Current, Sask.
The federal government is also shuttering nine former Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) offices on the Prairies.
As of May 31, 481 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada staff on the Prairies received workforce adjustment notices, meaning they could lose their jobs, according to the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Another 34 AAFC staff in British Columbia received notices.
Doug Chorney, president of Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers, told the Manitoba Cooperator’s Allan Dawson cutting federal staff is inconsistent with Growing Forward 2, which has been touted as supporting research.
“I don’t understand this move. We weren’t consulted. It’s news to everybody and seems contradictory to what the government has been saying,” said Chorney.
But Stewart said the federal government sees research as a priority.
“And so they’ve actually been pretty forthcoming with research money and we very much appreciate that. And we appreciate their partnership with us on this piece. I think it’s important to the industry,” he said.
— Lisa Guenther is a field editor with Grainews at Livelong, Sask. Follow her @LtoG on Twitter.