Declining Research Investment
By By Jim KnisleyFeatures Health Research By Jim Knisley Declining Research Investment PIC’s chairman urges producers to think about what reduced research funding means for their industry Poultry Research Research
Ed McKinley, poultry farmer and chairman of the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) is worried that the poultry industry is shortchanging research and will pay a heavy price in the future.
In his annual chairman’s report McKinley said: “I have to wonder why, in an industry to which we owe so much, we producers are not investing at the level of other Canadian private businesses in scientific research and education?”
“I wonder what this will mean for “the future of our industry, for my kids and grandkids.”
McKinley said that Canadian business invests, on average, 1.06 per cent of gross revenue in scientific research. Ontario poultry producers invested 0.043 per cent of farm gate cash receipts through the PIC for research and education. For a farm with $500,000 in farm gate receipts this works out to about $215 per year or $18 a month.
Future funding at issue
This is a “maintenance ration” for the PIC and the research and education programs it supports, he said. The money the PIC gets from producers and its investments is enough to keep current projects going. “But there is nothing being invested for the future, nothing to replace retiring researchers or crumbling research infrastructure or to develop a robust research platform to underpin our future requirements,” he said.
“I use this opportunity to urge our industry leaders to think long and hard about what reduced research investment might mean for our future and I remind producers that research will ensure your children and grandchildren of a poultry industry they too can be proud of,” McKinley said.
Tim Nelson, executive director of the PIC, echoed and reinforced the message.
“To keep up, move ahead and stay ahead of the competition requires investment,” he said.
Education and research cost money. Nelson pointed out that three poultry scientists at the University of Guelph are nearing retirement and there is a need to ensure that the positions don’t disappear.
“We need to develop science leaders,” he said.
He added that the emerging, young research stars will be looking for a future in a place where industry supports them and they have research infrastructure that is up to the new tasks they will tackle. Right now, the infrastructure “is not up to the new tasks or is very old,” he said.
He also pointed out that the PIC is able to use money from producers to “leverage” money from other supporters such as government and industry. In 2009, the $428,000 in new investment in research from producers was leveraged six to one and resulted in $2.57 million in research for a 20 to one return for the money producers invested in research.
The downside of leverage is that the PIC can only leverage against what the investing partners want to invest in. Leveraged money also comes with strings attached and it “doesn’t drive our [poultry producers’] objectives as fast as we’d like to drive them.”
He also pointed out that some of the sources of money the PIC has been using are diminishing.
For example, investment income has not been “brilliant” the last two years, the provincial poultry team fund finishes in December 2011 and the lysine fund is diminishing.
The difficult economic times of the last two years also reduced revenues from the PIC’s golf tournament and the London Poultry Show.
Government grants are more difficult to obtain and as both the federal and provincial governments work to reduce deficits grant money could become scarce.
It isn’t about the PIC, he noted. It is about the industry and the producers. He pointed out that the PIC is delivering a program as dictated by a strategy developed by producer groups. And it does this while watching its costs. The PIC hasn’t increased its administrative “ask” from farmers for four years, he said.
He said he wants to hear from farmers. He wants to know if they think the PIC is doing a good job or a lousy job. He wants to know what might be done better.
He also said he wants farmers to understand “the value of collective investment in research and the almost negligible cost this represents to individual producers.”
He wants farmers to see how much they are getting for an average of $18 a week and that for $10 per week more “they could inject some real capacity into our research sector that will stand our industry in good stead for years to come.”
He said: “There was a time when industry invested, why not now? What has changed?”
For more information on PIC-funded programs and research, go to www.poultryindustrycouncil.ca.
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