Research station's future blossoms

Tarlok Singh Sahota, director of research and business with the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station, stands outside the James Street government building in March last year.

The province has announced $350,000 in funding to keep the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station open over the next two years.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro said Monday that he is “very thankful” that Agricultural Minister Jeff Leal was able to help out the local agricultural research facility.

Provincial funding for the important research facility was set to run out by mid-March of this year, putting the station’s future and Northern crop and agricultural research projects in jeopardy.

“I’ve been working on parallel paths (aimed at keeping the research facility open) and am thankful that Minister Leal was able to help us out on that,” Mauro said.

He explained that the funding is a two-year transfer payment agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association which has responsibility for the research centre.

The funding is split over two years, with $200,000 provided in the first year, and up to $150,000 in the second year.

“We continue to work on a more permanent (funding) solution,” Mauro said, adding that “work has started; we’re hoping the funding in the second year won’t be necessary” if those plans come to fruition.

“I remain in discussions with the board of the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association and other potential partners to find a permanent solution that will see (the research station) remain a significant component of our agricultural community,” Mauro added.

Leal said that the funding will help the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station develop a long-term plan “to ensure they continue their tradition of important contributions to our agricultural sector’s research needs.

Since 2003, the government has supported the local research station through funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

“I am incredibly proud of the support our government has provided over the last decade to TBARS,” said Northern Development and Mine Minister Michael Gravelle.

“The research conducted has contributed to the discovery of new crops that can be grown in our region and promoted economic development for the agricultural sector here in the Northwest. I am very grateful that Minister Leal has made a major investment that will enable the research station to carry on its extremely valuable work and allow us to develop options for a sustainable future," Gravelle added.

Mauro noted that the local agricultural association “places a lot of value on the research station . . . I’ve talked with the president and they are very happy.”

“We are encouraged by the continuing recognition of this government that agricultural research is a fundamental, long term activity that promotes sustainable development and positively impacts both our rural and urban communities,” association president Kevin Belluz said Monday.

Meanwhile, the Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Association continues to work with Northern agricultural and research stakeholders to develop a sustainable, co-ordinated, long-term plan for agricultural research in the north.

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