The province and Ottawa have jointly distributed $9.8 million for crop production research projects this year.
Announced Tuesday in a news conference hosted by federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and Premier Scott Moe, the cash pool is funding 39 projects through the provincial Agriculture Development Fund. The feds and the province split their contributions 60-40, respectively.
This is the second year the cash pool and/or the number of projects have shrunk: In 2019 more than $12 million were available for 44 research projects; in 2020 there were $10.98 million in the pool, funding 47 projects.
Although from 2014 to 2018, the cash pool never breached the $8 million mark.
Provincial agriculture ministry spokeswoman Charlotte McGraw said Tuesday’s announced funding only reflects a portion of “the total amount the province is spending on crop-related research projects in any one year. We spend $15 million annually on research projects."
Aside from the funds announced Tuesday, she said the ministry plans to spend its full research budget allocation of $32.9 million for fiscal 2020-21, adding that amount was bumped up $1 million from the previous fiscal year.
Moe said the province expects Tuesday's announced funded research projects should, by 2030, increase provincial crop production “to 45 million tonnes," bump agriculture exports to $20 billion and help value-added revenue increase to $10 billion.
All of those goals are part of the government’s growth plan, he said.
This year, like in 2020, the University of Saskatchewan is claiming the majority of the funding and projects: $5.78 million for 18 research projects.
The majority of approved projects are for pulses (11) and crops related (15).
Pulses research is getting the most money, $4.48 million. Moe gave an inadvertent nod to this, saying farmers here help feed people in South Asia “in Mumbai, Delhi and Dhaka.”
Pulse crops — lentils and chickpeas — are regular protein sources in that region of the world.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is receiving $2.52 million for 12 research projects.
One tiny research project, earning $117,700 in funding, intends to see if spinach, kale and bok choy producers can make a go of it in Saskatchewan.
Working with Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification, lead investigator Jazeem Wahab seeks to, among other objectives, identify cultivators that can harvest the plants; “refine irrigation scheduling techniques to increase yields; minimize disease incidence” in the leafy greens; and “assess storage effects on shelf-life and quality attributes.”
Bibeau also used the news conference to say the feds are to review and reform the Canada Grain Act.
“(It) hasn’t had major updates in almost half a century,” she said, announcing the start of online consultation, set to end April 30.
“We need your ideas on changes to the Act that will ensure Canada remains a strong competitor in the global grain market,” she said.
Bibeau’s ministry is to collaborate with the Canadian Grain Commission on the changes.
McGraw said the review is "welcome news for the sector," encouraging local producers and stakeholders to get involved. “The ministry will actively participate in these discussions,” she said.
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post