CHARLOTTETOWN – Prince Edward Island’s potato growers have given their Prince Edward Island Potato Board a strong mandate to give research a higher priority.
The board held grower meetings in four locations across P.E.I. in mid-January to pitch a proposal for greater involvement in research and received close to unanimous consent.
“When growers were asked whether they supported making research a greater priority for P.E.I. Potato Board funding, the result was overwhelmingly positive at all meetings, with an approval rate close to 100 per cent,” the board reported.
Growers were equally supportive of allowing the board to budget at least $100,000 per year for the next five years towards research.
Potato Board manager, Greg Donald, said the board generated 100 per cent support on both questions at some of the meetings.
Given that growers had directed the board to put a research proposal together, the positive result was not unexpected, but Donald acknowledges the almost unanimous support was telling.
“It gives me, no doubt in my mind, that it’s something that we need to be a part of, and it’s important to them (the growers),” he said.
Donald said research was always part of the board’s mandate but largely in lobbying for funds for research work.
At some point a realization came that, if we’re going to continue to be leaders and be competitive in the marketplace, we somehow have to take the bull by the horns and lead this thing on our own - P.E.I. Potato Board manager, Greg Donald
“At some point a realization came that, if we’re going to continue to be leaders and be competitive in the marketplace, we somehow have to take the bull by the horns and lead this thing on our own,” he said.
The board worked on a proposal over the past year and took it back to growers to consider during four district meetings.
In addition to the minimum of $100,000 per year, which the board will take out of existing funds without raising levies, Donald said the board hopes to get funding support from other players in the industry and then leverage those funds to obtain three-to-one federal and provincial research dollars through the Growing Forward II program which starts in April.
With $100,000 from the board alone, that would work out to $400,000 for research projects while $150,000 from the board and industry partners combined would mean $600,000 for research.
“We still have a lot of work to do to put it all together,” said Donald, “but we’ve got a clear direction as to what we need to do.”
The plan has provisions for a research co-ordinator, but Donald said it hasn’t been decided whether an existing staff member will fill the role or a new position will be created.