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The BC Agriculture Council is concerned about the how cuts at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) will affect industry’s ability to respond efficiently and effectively to research priorities.
On May 9, 2013, approximately 700 AAFC scientists, research directors, engineers and technology specialists received “workforce adjustment notices” and it has been estimated that 400 positions may be fully eliminated. While BCAC was aware of potential cuts, there has been no clarity around plans or expressed commitment to public research, use of closed facilities, or succession planning for retired agricultural research scientists.
The union representing the employees said the notices were given to 144 commerce officers, 79 scientists, 76 IT specialists, 29 engineers, 14 biologists, 5 research managers and 3 procurement officers. The bulk of the cuts are in the Ottawa region (154) with 22 in British Columbia.
“We’ve not been able to confirm the details for BC, but believe that the grassland research centre in Kamloops will be closed, the poultry research centre in Agassiz will be closed or moved and at least two soil scientist positions in Agassiz will be eliminated” stated Reg Ens, Executive Director at the BC Agriculture Council. “We are worried about losing important long term research that is being done in these locations.”
BCAC, through our national counterpart, CFA have been calling for a long-term vision – a food and farm strategy for the agriculture and agri-food sector - to ensure policies aren’t created that undermine the long-term interests of the sector. Promoting the Canadian Brand – at home and abroad – is a key objective in the industry-led National Food Strategy.
The following is the official response from our federal counterpart, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture:
· The federal government has played an essential role in past research, with the goal of supporting Canadian agriculture producers so they can remain competitive. However, over the past several years, we have seen many research facilities closures and the elimination of scientist and research support positions at AAFC. The ongoing cuts – including those announced yesterday – continue to raise concerns in the agriculture community.
· On May 9th, AAFC issued “workforce adjustment notices” to approximately 700 employees - primarily scientists, research directors, engineers and technology specialists in the Science and Technology, and Market and Industry Services branches. It has been estimated that 400 positions may be fully eliminated.
· The union representing the employees said the notices were given to 144 commerce officers, 79 scientists, 76 IT specialists, 29 engineers, 14 biologists, 5 research managers and 3 procurement officers. The bulk of the cuts are in the Ottawa region (154) but also throughout the country: Saskatchewan (49), Manitoba (33), Quebec(26), British Columbia (22), Alberta (21), Ontario (19), Nova Scotia (13), New Brunswick (8), PEI (3), Newfoundland (2).
· The Market Information Services branch is responsible for providing publications like the annual Overview of Canadian agriculture, farm income forecasts, medium term outlooks, and other income/financial data books that are important for the sector to develop financial-related policy. The regional offices of the branch also provide a single window access to AAFC programs and services for farmers. In addition, the branch provides trade statistics, take part in trade shows, and are also responsible for many export assistance activities as the Agri-food Trade Services are under this branch.
· It is unclear how the proposed staffing cuts will impact the important services of this branch or if farmers will see reduction in program delivery services. Clarity is needed around how staff reductions in the Science and Technology Branch will impact the research capacity of AAFC in Ottawa and across the country and whether AAFC will continue to have the staff to respond efficiently and effectively to industry driven research priorities.
· We were aware of potential cuts in light of the Budget, but there has been no clarity around plans or expressed commitment to public research, use of closed facilities, or succession planning for retired agricultural research scientists.
· These cuts and the lack of clarity undermine recommendations from the agricultural community. Industry has been calling for targeted public funding dollars spent on primary and applied agricultural research. It has also been calling for a long-term plan and commitment to research – as a necessary part in ensuring an innovative, sustainable sector. It is unclear how these continued cuts will further the agenda of innovation set forth by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – noting the strong interrelation between sustained innovation and public funded research. The agriculture sector has consistently asked that public funded research dollars be increased and better targeted to help ensure Canadian Agriculture and the Canadian Brand remains innovative, ahead of the curve and a leader in international markets.
· Promoting the Canadian Brand – at home and abroad – is a key objective in the industry-led National Food Strategy. This is a great example of why industry has been calling for a long-term vision – a food and farm strategy for the agriculture and agri-food sector - to ensure policies aren’t created that undermine the long-term interests of the sector.
Specific asks relating to Research:
o Allow external resources to use AAFC infrastructures and laboratories through partnerships with research firms
o Grant financial support and equipment to local organizations that may want to may want to use research sites targeted for closure
o Maintain research positions of primary importance to the agriculture sector to ensure long term research work is not lost.
o Recognize the industry’s capacity for investing in research by setting reasonable percentages for the industry contributions to research and development programs
o Facilitate access to research and development tax credits for business
BCAC Chair Rhonda Driediger is one of five recipients from across Canada to receive the Farm Credit Canada (FCC) Rosemary Davis Award for agriculture leadership for 2013. In early April, Rhonda travelled to Boston to attend the 2013 Simmons School of Management’s premier leadership conference for women. At BCAC’s AGM, a representative from FCC officially presented the award to Rhonda.
“Rhonda is an innovative farm business owner with demonstrated skills in leadership, creativity and an overall passion for the agriculture industry." said Kimberly Ross, FCC Senior Relationship Manager. "The countless hours she devotes to volunteering in the industry contribute to advancing the business of Canadian agriculture. This award is very well deserved and we are extremely pleased to present it to Rhonda Driediger."
BCAC's AGM was held on April 10, 2013. We had an excellent representation from our members who participated. We said goodbye to board members Ken Vandeburgt and Tony Van Oort, but as BCAC Chair Rhonda Driediger said, "This is not goodbye because as leaders in your industry, our paths will be crossing again." We welcome new board members Lorne Hunter representing dairy, Stan Vander Waal representing floriculture and Fred Wein representing landscape horticulture.
When ministers hear different messages from different representations of the same industry, it not only creates confusion but also undermines the efforts of the entire sector, according to Mr. Corky Evans, a former BC Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Evans says that it is important to have one unified voice representing agriculture, finding common ground on key issues. He encouraged farmers and ranchers in BC to be active during the upcoming election campaigns, challenging the industry to make sure that every candidate remembers the face of at least one farmer. “When political leaders make decisions, often all they have briefing notes, which don’t tell the whole story. They want to hear directly from farmers so that they are aware of any unintended consequences of their decisions.”
Mr. Evans was speaking at a session titled “In your best interest: building effective government relations” organized by the The Centre for Organizational Governance (COGA) in Agriculture. The event was held on March 1, 2013 in Langley BC.
Other presenters included Mary Carlson, Deputy Registrar, BC Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, Laurie Throness, and former federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Chuck Strahl.
The next set of COGA programs will begin in the Fall 2013. Click here for more information about COGA.
Over the years, and especially in the past few months, we have heard reports in the news and by those outside of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) membership that accuse the CFA of being a supply-managed organization. Others argue we place too much emphasis on trade, while some question if our focus is too central Canada, western grain or remote rural-centric.
To those accusations of who we are - I proudly answer an emphatic 'YES' - to all of the above. CFA is an organization that is supportive and proud of supply management and all orderly marketing tools, and the role they play in securing producer returns. CFA is an organization focused on exports - proud of the high quality products Canada sells internationally through its grains, oilseeds, sugar beets, horticulture and livestock members - at the CFA table directly or within each of our provincial general farm organizations. And yes, CFA is focused on the issues of central Canada, western Canada, eastern Canada and the remote areas in between.
CFA is Canada's largest national general farm organization. As such, we appreciate that not every issue will impact everyone at CFA directly or equally. But in 1935, the CFA was formed to provide a strong, collective voice for farmers - to work for the betterment of all farmers - to improve the socio-economic situation of all farmers. And some 78 years later, that objective has not changed. It is an objective that is obtained through a variety of initiatives - initiatives on a broad spectrum of files that have a direct impact to the bottom line of our members and every Canadian farmer. These include work not just on trade - which is key - but on other areas that impact farmers directly, like the owner use pesticide program, species at risk, business risk management tools, crop insurance, taxation issues, water use, climate change, regulatory reform, food safety and farm safety to name but a few.
Our objective is to ensure the sector as a whole is profitable and viable not just today but for the long-term, and that we at CFA strive to make that happen not on the backs or expense of others in the industry, but collectively and by working in partnership along the entire food supply chain. We do it by working with not only Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but with Health Canada, Environment Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Industry Canada - and our provincial members help to strengthen that approach by working in collaboration with their respective provincial ministries to bring a common vision and hopefully approach to agriculture in this country.
So, if working for the betterment of the entire agri-food sector is a fault - if understanding the complex inter-relationships between commodities, sectors and regions is wrong - then we are guilty and happily so - but at CFA, we will not be convinced that alone you can be stronger than working collaboratively together.
21 rue Florence St., Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 0W6 · Tel. 613-236-3633 · Fax/Téléc. 613-236-5749 · www.cfa-fca.ca
For more about the CFA, read the report on CFA's 2013 AGM prepared by BCAC Director Dennis Lapierre.
New ways for securing agricultural water are being suggested and you can give your input on what is important to you!
Simon Fraser University – with steering from Denise Neilsen, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Ted Van der Gulik, BC Ministry of Agriculture, the Okanagan Basin Water Board, and many from BC’s agricultural and water community – is currently conducting a study on agricultural water use in British Columbia.
We need your input!
Already many agricultural groups are providing a wide variety of thoughts on agricultural water reserves, investing in new water supplies, and how water could be managed in times of short supply. But we need your help to ensure that results represent the diversity of farming operations in BC.
We encourage you to take part in this important study to share your opinions on ways to secure agricultural water and to help inform future water policies. Now is a good time to give your input before BC considers finalizing its water act modernization process.
You can give your input.
To take part in this short survey and give your input, go to http://www.watersurvey.rem.sfu.ca.
As a small thank you by the research team; everyone who completes the survey is eligible for a private drawing to win 1 of 3 $100 visa gift cards.
Your participation in this survey is voluntary, and your answers will be treated confidentially and anonymously. A summary of results will be made publically available and distributed to BC’s agricultural community.
For more information about the study or survey, please contact the project investigator, Steve Conrad, Simon Fraser University, at (604) 649-6746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.