Evaluation of Alberta Agriculture's Farming for the Future Program

This evaluation of the Farming for the Future program sought to measure the benefits and costs of the program to Alberta. The costs have been straightforward: The Government of Alberta transferred $65 million from the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund to the program. Farming for the Future has awarded $55.6 million in research grants, $3.8 million for demonstration projects up to April 1991 and an additional $600,000 for 1991-92 awards. Most of the remainder financed conferences, publications, and other means of dispensing information. A small amount has been used to help administer the program, but most of the admininstrative costs have been borne by Alberta Agriculture. The benefits of the program are many and diverse, some are direct and easy to specify and some are indirect and intangible. Grants have supported 684 reserach projects involving some 300 scientists. The funding has enabled researchers to carry on valuable work that could not have been done as well or as completely without the support. Reserach funds from Farming for the Future have supported at least 137 graduate students. Many of them have graduated and gone on to do scientific research on their own. The training provided to these young scientists is an invaluable part of the accomplishments of the Farming for the Future program. A survey of previous studies of returns to investments in agricultural research suggested that on average an annual return of about 50% can be expected. These benefits begin after a lag of about five years between completion of the research and the adoption by farmers (or processors as the case may be), and they continue for twenty-five years or more. My best estimate is that the full benefits from teh $55.6 million granted for research are about $28 million per year in current dollars or $37.5 million per year in the 1991 dollars. The aggregate returns assuming a 25-year life span will be $695 million in current dolalrs. They have a present value of $307 million using 5% discount rate. The values would be 35% higher, $939 million and $415 million respectively, in 1991 dollar terms. They would be considerably greater based on the full cost input to the research. Few if any private business ventures earn such handsome returns. Few public investments, except education, are likely to yield such returns. The Farming for the Future program ahs proven itself as one of the best possible ways to benefit the farmers and consumers of Alberta. Its continuation will enable farmers to contineu increasing their productivity and to maintain and perhaps imprive their competitive standing in the world and domestic markets. The results of this study provide strong arguments for the continues support of the program. Inflation alone would require a doubling of the level of funding from $5 million to $10 million per year just to maintain 1979 purchasing power. Taking full advantage of the availability of research personnel and facilities in Alberta would require an additional 33% to 50% increase in funding.

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Project Report

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-24

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