Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Thursday on behalf of the Harper government the strengthening of Canada's grain industry with support for a new wheat cluster under the Growing Forward 2 initiative.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday Nov. 22, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
"With the end of the old Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, wheat is re-emerging as an economic driver across the Prairies and throughout Canada," said Minister Ritz. "Today's investment will empower the sector to capitalize on new and existing trade opportunities, including the Canada‚ÄďEuropean Union (EU) free trade agreement announced last month."
In Red Deer Thursday morning, the Minister highlighted the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement's benefits to the grain industry during a meeting hosted by Agri-Trade 2013 at its first annual All Crops Breakfast and Market Outlook event. The investment in a cluster led by the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) will bring together scientific expertise for research in key areas, such as higher-yielding wheat varieties that are also more resistant to disease and pests.
"WGRF would like to thank Minister Ritz and the Government of Canada for their continued partnership and investment in wheat variety development. Through WGRF, western Canadian producers are investing more than $9.6 million into the wheat cluster. Investment in wheat variety development has historically earned a very high return for producers. Having access to new wheat varieties that offer producers better disease and pest resistance and provide higher yields is crucial to continued success of all producers in Canada," said Dave Sefton, WGRF Chair.
The farmer-funded WGRF, in coordination with the Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance and the Alberta Wheat Commission, will be investing $12.7 million in addition to the Government of Canada's investment. The research will build on an earlier Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) wheat cluster investment of $8 million by continuing breeding trials that are already under way.
"The Alberta Wheat Commission has chosen the wheat cluster as one of its first investments because Alberta's producers recognize the importance of having strong varieties alongside excellent agronomics," said Kent Erickson, Chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission.
"Today's funding announcement is an excellent example of how public and private and producer investments are important for the industry, and how producer check-off dollars can be leveraged and invested by commissions to achieve the greatest possible return on investment," Erickson added.
"Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance (CFCRA) members are grateful for the Government of Canada's support of the wheat cluster. We are excited to be involved in this truly national wheat breeding program, with CFCRA members contributing more than $1.7 million toward the activities of the cluster. The new wheat varieties developed through this research program will be adapted for diverse growing regions across Canada and specialized for the key market opportunities for the benefit of the Canadian wheat sector," said Crosby Devitt, CFCRA President.
The research cluster will support what industry has identified as the highest priority research done by the best Canadian experts in research centres across the country. AAFC researchers will collaborate on several priorities, including the development of higher-yielding wheat varieties with enhanced disease and insect resistance.
Researchers will also look at adapting varieties for different regions so that they can withstand adverse environmental conditions while still meeting the strict quality standards required to market wheat internationally. For more information on the Growing Forward 2 agreement and the AgriInnovation Program, please visit www.agr.gc.ca/growingforward2.