Aug. 29, 2022

Funding from UFA Co-operative Ltd. and Rural Communities Foundation boosts agricultural research and public outreach

$600,000 commitment to The Simpson Centre at The School of Public Policy establishes Public Education Series
Panel discussion
A panel discussion with, from left: Scott Bolton, UFA; Guillaume Lhermie, The Simpson Centre; and Harvey Hagman, UFA and RCF. The Simpson Centre

Canada is a country that can provide the extra food the world needs.

The agriculture industry is projected to contribute more than $50 billion to our nation’s GDP by 2030, making it a larger sector than the country’s automobile assembly and aeronautic industries combined. Meanwhile, Canadian agriculture faces serious labour shortages. And with climate change, the business of agriculture has become more risky. Farmers face climate events and the environmental impacts of their management practices all the time. If we want to make informed decisions — at the farmgate — then we need to think carefully.

The Simpson Centre makes farming more relevant for people who don’t know much about job of agriculture.

Farming practices — healthy debates for future policy

A generous commitment of $600,000 over four years from the UFA Co-operative Ltd. (UFA) and UFA's Rural Communities Foundation (RCF) will allow The Simpson Centre at UCalgary to delve into the practical aspects of agriculture for producers, policy-makers, researchers and the public. 

“The Simpson Centre’s role is to be a neutral and objective institute that takes on the challenging questions in agriculture today, which frankly are the challenging questions that the world faces around food security and sustainability, environmental challenges and climate change. An organization that has the expertise to take on these questions is a natural fit for UFA,” says UFA President and CEO Scott Bolton.

The Simpson Centre brings together stakeholders with different perspectives into a dialogue about the future of agriculture. “One of the things that I really like is the collaborative approach,” says RCF Chair Harvey Hagman. “You’re getting information from a lot of different perspectives, and I think that will come up with the best decision.”

Scientific trade-offs

In the aim of bringing academic research into public discussions about food and agriculture, The Simpson Centre focuses on making good information relevant, accessible, and trustworthy. The Centre supports agriculture and agri-food by sharing information with government leaders, industry professionals and everyday people. 

“One of the key words at The Simpson Centre is ‘trade-offs,’” says Dr. Guillaume Lhermie, PhD, Director of The Simpson Centre. “We have to face trade-offs. What are the policies that are allowing us to decrease the anthropogenic impact on the climate, and at the same time, allow sustainable economic growth? We need to have at least two sides of the coin to show to people. What is good. What is bad. Basically, the answer is neither right, nor wrong. We need to show that to people, to make more educated choices.”

The three key areas of research at The Simpson Centre are:

  • Agriculture and society (population health and environment)
  • Agriculture and economics (sustainable productivity)
  • Agricultural literacy (public education and outreach)

Research dissemination — for social and industry benefits  

The Simpson Centre is adopting innovative approaches to create and disseminate academic research that impacts agricultural and agri-food products in Canada. Part of the strategy to disseminate research involves reaching out to people “where they’re at” —  listening to questions to provide answers and ultimately encouraging the sharing of information.

“We think that agriculture policy 2.0 should be an aggregation of different voices. Voices from the producers — because they know what is feasible, acceptable for them. And voices from the consumers because they know, at least partially, what they want and what they expect,” says Lhermie. “The fair, equitable policy is probably in the middle of that.”

“What we need is debate on these issues, from all sides to get to the right answer,” adds Bolton.

Watch the video of Scott Bolton, Harvey Hagman and Guillaume Lhermie below as they discuss key issues for the future of agriculture.