The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre is not closing, MP Mark Strahl has stated in an email to The Observer.
The statement is in response to a story published last week announcing cuts at the Agassiz-based research centre operated by the federal government. Several positions are reported to have been terminated in the past weeks, leaving the centre with as few as five scientists and causing fear that the centre will eventually close. Last week, the Agriculture and AgriFood Canada office confirmed that the centre is experiencing a “work force adjustment situation” and that employees impacted are being provided with support.
While Strahl said “the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz will continue to play an important role in agricultural research in our region,” he also confirmed that operations there will be affected by changes.
“I am advised that poultry research similar to that currently conducted by the Research Centre is also being done by academia/industry and that the Research Centre will cease to duplicate their efforts,” he wrote. “While AAFC’s dairy research will be consolidated elsewhere, UBC’s Dairy Education and Research Centre will continue to operate on site.”
The centre will continue to host research into minor use pesticides, horticulture and crop protection, he added.
Strahl also confirmed that the reason for the cuts was a fiscal decision, in an effort to reduce overall government spending, and balance the budget.
“Unfortunately, that means that some federal civil servants will be affected,” he said. “Employees who are affected have several options ranging from early retirement to alternative federal employment, to catching on with projects that may be sponsored by academia or stakeholder groups.”
He also referred to the new Growing Forward 2 program that puts money in the hands of the provinces and stakeholders, “to develop market access, innovative products and to explore solutions to food and environmental issues.”
He suggested that the facilities in Agassiz could be used by stakeholders to begin new projects that “address the needs of the community.”
GF2 is a $3 billion dollar investment by federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments and the foundation for government agricultural programs and services over the next five years.
The new program came into effect on Apr. 1, and includes three key components for agricultural: AgriInnovation, AgriCompetitiveness and AgriMarketing. It also includes a business risk management program to help protect farmers against severe market volatility and disasters.
The Agassiz research station is one of 19 federally funded stations across the country. It has been operating in Agassiz since 1889 and consists of 310 hectares, research greenhouses, an arboretum and the longest-running weather station in the province. Each summer, staff and scientists open the doors the public for an interactive open house explaining all the functions and current projects.