In this 2008 file photo, a Brandon Research Centre employee waters several slats of barley plants at one of the facility's test nurseries.
Twenty agricultural research jobs will be relocated to the Brandon Research Centre early next year.
Research scientists as well as technical support positions will move to Brandon, as a result of the impending closure of Winnipeg’s Cereal Research Centre.
"We are moving our cereal breeding research to Brandon, so that includes wheat and oat breeding," said David Wall, director of operations at the CRC, located at the University of Manitoba. "As well, we will have one genomics scientist located there, and one pathologist."
The CRC will close its doors in April 2014. A total of 60 jobs will be relocated — 20 to Brandon and 40 to Morden. Of the 60 positions, all but 23 have accepted relocation.
"We’re going to have to re-staff (23 positions) because of staff declining relocation," Wall said. "You know how it is with modern families today … both spouses typically have jobs and careers and relocation isn’t always simple."
When the closure was first announced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in April 2012, Wall said it came as a surprise to the employees.
"Nobody really saw it coming," he said. "But … I think we’ll manage."
The centre, one of a network of 19 national research centres of AAFC, focuses on wheat and oats breeding, improving cereal quality and the resistance to diseases and insects. It will be shut down as part of a wave of federal budget cuts.
"(It’s the) end of an era for this centre," Wall said. "We’re sad to be leaving the campus, but you know, change is inevitable."
Wall said the closure is a "practical decision" by the AAFC.
"We looked at the infrastructure we have here in Winnipeg, it was in need of replacement and … given all the budget considerations, we do have some very good facilities at Morden and Brandon, which can accommodate the program," he said.
Roughly 30 research positions will stay in Winnipeg.
"We do still have some programs that are associated with the Richardson Centre on campus and also the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at St. Boniface (hospital research centre)," he said.
Wall, who has spent about seven of his 31-year agricultural career at the CRC, will be relocating to Morden Research Station.
"For myself, I started my career in Morden, so I’m going … full circle," he said.
Relocations will take place from mid-January to mid-February 2014.
According to AAFC spokesperson Patrick Girard, research activities relocated to the Brandon Research Centre will focus on germplasm enhancement for wheat and oat varieties that will be high-yielding, disease-resistant and of high quality, and well adapted to prairie growing conditions.
The new Brandon jobs are a welcome addition, as just last month, AAFC cut 11 jobs from the centre’s beef grazing systems research. As part of nationwide federal cuts, the program is moving from Brandon to Lacombe, Alta.
Jobs cut from the Brandon centre include a scientist, two technicians, six general labourers and computer services staff, which drew criticism from the local beef industry.
"Research is something that is very important to us as producers," said Cam Dahl, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers last month. "It’s something that we invest heavily in, and in fact have invested in research through the BRC … This is something that we are disappointed in."
Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, is pleased to see more jobs making their way to the Brandon Research Centre.
"I thought that is good news. I’ve had the chance to be at the Brandon Research Centre … it’s a very impressive facility and it would be an awful shame for that to be left vacant," Chorney said, however he does feel for those people who must relocate to keep their jobs.
"I know this is likely very disruptive for the personal lives of the people that are having to make the move. I know Brandon is a vibrant community that has a lot to offer … so it’s not necessarily the end of the world ... but depending on the stage of your career and your family situation, I know it could be a very frustrating process to go through."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 26, 2013