+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 16-23S

Applied Research Associations Funding

February 23, 2023
Expiry Date:
March 1, 2026
Active Status:
Northern Sunrise County
4 - Northern
Industry and Resource Development
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the  Government of Alberta outsourced  agriculture research and extension services within the province; and

WHEREAS as a result of this outsourcing, applied research associations have taken on a larger role without sources of funding to sustain these operations; and

WHEREAS applied research associations have been historically funded by the Government of Alberta and changes in their funding structure threatens the longevity of their operations; and

WHEREAS the current proposed funding from the organization Results Driven Agriculture Research is project based and does not adequately meet the needs for regional extension and knowledge transfer; and

WHEREAS local research and knowledge transfer funding is not dependable as it is not provided long-term; and

WHEREAS the services provided by applied research associations are especially important when considering the increasing social and political pressure for innovation to improve the sustainability of Canadian agriculture; and

WHEREAS applied research associations are an integral source of unbiased regional research and extension services pertinent to local producers and agricultural service boards;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta provide sustainable operational funding to applied research associations to maintain local, unbiased research and extension services that keep Alberta’s agriculture industry innovative and competitive.

Member Background:

There are 12 applied research associations (ARA) groups across the province that conduct applied research and extension services that are key in developing Alberta agriculture. The ARAs are driven by a desire to empower agricultural innovation by openly sharing ideas supported by sound science and practical wisdom. These associations directly serve the research and outreach needs within their regions, which is essential in helping producers access relevant agricultural research solutions to become more competitive globally. With this expertise, these associations are also pivotal responders to agricultural disasters and are champions of innovative and useful adaptations. They are able to connect stakeholders at a regional, provincial, and national level to collaborate and learn through unbiased applied research.

The areas of expertise of the ARAs range throughout the agriculture industry – some associations focus on the crop sector, while others focus on the forage and livestock sectors, and some cover the entire spectrum. Each association has a focus dictated by the needs of the regional agricultural producers and local resources available.

Many individuals are employed by ARAs, including 41 full-time employees (nine PhDs, 12 professional Agrologists, 11 Masters researchers, five Certified Crop Advisors, two Agrologists in Training, and two Agrology Technologists in Training) and 28 seasonal summer students. ARAs also own, rent, or lease over 1600 acres of land for agricultural innovation research throughout the province.


In 2020 the  Government of Alberta reduced spending and activity on agriculture research and extension to facilitate producer and industry-led research. This means that ARAs have increased their research and extension efforts to compensate for the gaps created by the government’s reduced role in this sector. Yet, since 2000, annual government funding for the  ARAs remained stagnant at $2 million – $2.5 million annually, first from the Agriculture Opportunities Fund (AOF), and then from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) program. The failure to compensate the ARAs for their increased research and extension work puts these groups at serious risk of failure. Private funding and grants to cover operational costs for these faculties are extremely difficult to find. The ARAs have found ways to persevere by accessing alternative revenue sources, donations, and fundraising, however, with increased competition for dollars and less funds to go around, this is no longer sustainable. Many ARAs operate with outdated, unreliable equipment in constant need of repair. One ARA must find alternative work arrangements when it rains due to holes in the office roof.

In 2021, 33% of the ARAs ran at a deficit and another 25% ran at slightly better than break even. Some of the ARAs have managed to leverage revenue with contributions from external resources, however this is dependent on the prosperity of their regions and sectors. The struggles of some ARAs to build capital directly threatens the longevity of these operations. If these research organizations are lost to bankruptcy, it may be directly reflected through the loss of innovation and therefore competitiveness in the region of the lost ARA. Additionally, the public good of the ARAs through extension events provides immeasurable value in terms of public trust in agriculture which positively impacts producer economics, and producer uptake of technologies to improve innovation and reduce environmental impact. The loss of groups like ARAs would be detrimental to the Alberta agriculture industry.


The CAP program is a five-year, $3 billion federal-provincial-territorial investment in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector that began in April 2018. In Alberta, the CAP program is a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector. Alberta’s  ARAs have received some operational funding through this program for the past four years, as a replacement to the previous Agriculture Opportunities Fund (AOF; dating back to 2000) however, as stated earlier, these funds are insufficient for these organizations.

Currently an arms-length organization called RDAR (Results Driven Agriculture Research) allocates funding from the  Government of Alberta to research projects, with the aim of allowing farmers to collaborate with others involved in research to determine research priorities. This organization was established following the Government of Alberta’s step back from direct research and extension work in 2020. RDAR replaces previous research models including the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF). A portion of the funding for RDAR comes from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and federal-provincial investment.

RDAR is heavily focused on research projects, and the demand for their research funds is extremely high – they do not have adequate funds to cover all phases of the innovation cycle across all sectors and regions. Program or operational funding is also challenging to fit within RDAR’s purpose. Additionally, ARAs deliver other outcomes (such as rural economic development, and rural mental health services) that align with the priorities of Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation, but not RDAR’s.

ARAs have received some project funding through RDAR, however, this funding is for the direct project costs and does not adequately cover the overhead costs, let alone fund the non-research-specific public good projects performed by these research facilities. A more comprehensive and sustainable funding program is needed to preserve these facilities.


The CAP program, that is primarily responsible for the overhead funding of Alberta’s  Government of Alberta, is coming to term in March of 2023. However, an additional $2.5 million has been allocated through RDAR to extend funding to March 2024, but this does not provide long-term security for the ARAs. A new funding system is required after the expiry of the CAP program to ensure that ARAs can remain operational. Alberta needs a program that allows for ARAs to continue to provide services and research that is vital for the competitiveness of the Alberta agriculture industry.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation

Thank you for your March 29, 2023 email regarding the recent resolution endorsed at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Spring 2023 Convention.

Agricultural Research Associations (ARAs) and the Alberta Research and Extension Council of Alberta are recognized as valued partners in agricultural research programming and delivery of extension activities to farmers and ranchers across Alberta. Agriculture and Irrigation (AGI) supports the vital work ARAs undertake to provide unbiased extension information to Alberta’s agriculture sector.

Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) provides operational funding to support Alberta’s 12 ARAs. In 2022-23, ARAs received $2.5 million in operational funding – slightly more than the funding that was provided under the discontinued Agriculture Opportunities Fund. RDAR also initiated and facilitated a process to examine the operational needs of ARAs. This work resulted in a Harmonized Base Funding Proposal the ARAs shared with the department and RDAR in summer 2022.

AGI and RDAR are committed to funding ARA operations to ensure knowledge transfer between academia and farmers. The value ARAs provide to Albertans was recognized in budget 2023-24 through an annual increase of $1.5 million in operational funding, bringing the total funding to support ARA operations to $4 million per year for the next two years.


RMA is pleased that the Government of Alberta’s 2023 budget has committed to increased multi-year operational funding for ARA operations. This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted, and RMA will monitor future budgets to ensure funding remains.

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