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Cocktail of funding dollars

Scientific research is a key to our future in almost any area you wish to point to, including agriculture.

Calvin Daniels

August 28, 2023

But there are two huge questions related to ag research: Who will supply the dollars, and who sets the agenda? There are three general funding sources: producers themselves - money generally collected as a levy on sales, corporate investment and government dollars. It's an interesting cocktail of funding dollars with the potential for significantly different views on how it should be spent.

First comes producer dollars. There, you will at least generally find some consensus - at least within a particular commodity group - about what needs to be researched, but they are not always paying the largest portion of the bill to have the final say. That's where the other funding sources come into play.

There is always a profit associated with anything a corporation does, and while at times those efforts can be in lockstep with producer needs, it will ultimately be about adding to the corporate bottom line before that of the farmer. That leaves government dollars, which can come with their own strings attached.

Government funding, any and all stripes, comes with political agendas, and those are often reflected in where dollars go. At times the agenda is also influenced by the general public in the sense that government dollars come from all taxpayers, the vast majority well-removed from the day-to-day activities of farming.

A taxpaying voter in Toronto has little chance of knowing about the potential impact of blackleg on Canola production, but they are aware of the aura of climate change. An MP in a large metro city can 'sell' investing in research to help agriculture producers adapt to climate change far more easily.

From a producer's perspective, the impact of blackleg - again as an example - is more directly understood as a threat. Canola is the big dollar crop, and anything that can reduce yields is a threat to profitability.

Climate change is far different. Some see it as a great mirage with scientists and politicians around the world forming a grand cabal to fleece the public. Others see climate change as a natural occurrence that is simply going through another cycle - which it might be - but still leaves the question of how we adapt because there are far more mouths to feed now. Still, others are willing to kick the can of climate change down the road, leaving it to others.

Suddenly, research funding becomes far more complicated because there is never enough money to do everything, and the best path depends mainly on who you ask.

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