There have been rumblings of changes coming to agricultural research in Alberta for a couple months, and the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has finally unveiled their new project. Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, has announced the creation of Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR), a non-profit, arm’s-length agriculture research organization.
The decision was made following government consultations with farmers, industry and key partners in the agricultural sector earlier this year. The outcome of these consultations was the decision that farmers, in collaboration with others involved in research, are best positioned to determine agricultural research priorities.
According to the press release provided by the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, RDAR’s structure takes the best parts of previous research models, such as Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF), as it ensures research reflects the priorities of farmers and ranchers. The press release states that it is imperative that agriculture research in Alberta achieves outcomes that can be applied in the field and on the ranch.
“We will make sure farmers direct research priorities. RDAR will ensure Alberta’s agriculture industry has more financial flexibility and autonomy to fund longer-term projects,” Dreeshun said in an official statement. “Governments shouldn’t force ideology on research priorities – research priorities should be determined by industry. Research can be a massive springboard for economic growth and, with the right focus, RDAR can achieve that for Alberta’s farmers and ranchers.”
An interim board and CEO have been put in place to establish RDAR. Research funding will begin flowing by September 2020 and achieve full operational capacity by March 2021. Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, $2 million in grant funding will be provided this year to support initial operations, which will allow RDAR to begin focusing on research right away.
The shift to RDAR from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (Alberta Ag) research comes amid some controversy, including the uncertainty of continued employment for many Alberta Ag researchers. Mark Olson was the unit head for Alberta Ag’s pulse crop research up until recently, and his dismissal from the role earlier in March came as a surprise to many. This sparked rumours that Alberta Ag researchers would be dismissed in part or entirely to make way for the (at that point unnamed) new research initiative.
It remains to be seen how the transition will progress, and what RDAR will bring to agricultural research.