Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Grain innovation hub' set up here

Province, feds tout $33-M plan

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Ottawa and Broadway plan to spend a combined $20 million over the next five years to beef up grain research, production and processing in Manitoba.

On Friday, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and his Manitoba counterpart, Ron Kostyshyn, announced the creation of a "grain innovation hub," a $33-million package of funding for research and development that will take place in university labs and private-sector facilities.

Agricultural firms such as Cargill, Viterra and Richardson are expecting to provide the remaining $13 million for the research and development, which will take place in a variety of labs, offices and fields. It will not involve the construction of a new facility.

"Everybody says there has to be bricks and mortar to work out of. There's lot of brick and mortar that's out there and available," Ritz told reporters at the Canadian International Grains Institute in Winnipeg.

"This actually puts money in the researchers' hands to let them buy the equipment they need and do the test plots they need to do."

Ottawa and Broadway have not prescribed the precise nature of the research-and-development work that will take place. Some of the initial spending, however, will involve research into expanding corn production to new areas of Manitoba and efforts to use Manitoba-led research to stimulate the construction of new food and pharmaceutical processing plants in the province.

The Harper and Selinger governments will also make some capital contributions toward private agri-food research and development.

Kostyshyn said the idea is to allow more grain to be processed into higher-value products within Manitoba instead of shipping raw cereals, oilseeds and pulses out of the province. Expanding corn production would provide the hog industry with better access to less-expensive feed, he added.

The spending within Manitoba can be seen as a consolation prize for the province following a pair of federal decisions affecting Winnipeg's importance in the Canadian grains industry.

In 2012, Ottawa ended the Winnipeg-based Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on wheat and barley marketing. Ottawa also closed the Cereals Research Centre, which occupied a vintage brick building on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

The centre, which closed in April, focused on wheat and oat breeding, improving cereal quality and resistance to diseases and insects. Staff at the facility were moved to research stations in Morden and Brandon, and private companies were slated to take over the centre's seed-breeding program.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2014 A1

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