Agriculture stakeholders continue to plead for more publicly funded long term research, as the House agriculture committee wraps up its study on innovation and competitiveness in Canadian agriculture.
The latest entreaty came Monday, in testimony from the Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association, who told MPs the decline in research dollars is hurting their industry. “Dramatic” drops in research funding for forage means its associated research can’t keep up with popular annual crops like canola, corn and soybeans, “putting the livestock sector at risk,” said the group’s chairman, Doug Wary.
Forages are the largest cultivated crop in Canada, at 13 million hectares or 39 per cent of cultivated land. Another 15 million hectares of native or natural pasture land in Canada is dedicated forage.
The forage industry, valued at $5.1 billion, is essential to the Canadian livestock industry. Eighty per cent of Canada’s beef production and 60 per cent of a dairy cow’s diet depend on forages. The plants also help with soil conservation. Farmers often include them in their crop rotations to improve soil structure, control erosion, and add nitrogen — crucial to plant growth.