Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

August 20, 2002

Details of U of G/OMAF partnership

Editor's Note: The following was sent out as a memorandum to the University community from Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research)

The University, after an extensive consultative planning process, is announcing plans for implementing its new agreement/contract with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF).

This five-year contract incorporates a strategic plan for change that will preserve the University’s and OMAF’s infrastructure, and position both to refocus priorities to respond to changes and meet research challenges of the future.

The University has always recognized its unique responsibility to work with the agriculture and food sectors to help sustain their productivity and vitality. Simultaneously, the University seeks to remain Canada’s pre-eminent centre for agricultural and food-related research and education. To achieve this objective, we are refocusing the partnership agreement to ensure that research, education and laboratory service programs respond effectively to the needs of students and stakeholders in Ontario’s agri-food and rural sectors.

Since 1999, OMAF funding to the University has been stable at $50.5 million a year. But the University has had to find ways to manage a base budget shortfall of $6 million that resulted from increased program costs and a reduction of the transfer payment from OMAF in 1999. Over the last few years, every effort has been made to preserve as many programs as possible through one-time funding solutions, but the fiscal reality is that these one-time solutions have been exhausted, and as a result, some programs can no longer be sustained. The University is now looking to make permanent changes that will provide stability for the future.

OMAF and the University have agreed that we both need to focus on five priority areas of research: improved production agriculture and market diversification in the plant and animal areas; the life sciences, including biotechnology; food and food system safety; the environment; and rural policy and development. Foremost in our strategic planning was the recognition of the need for sustainable programs, with increased revenues, innovation, technology transfer and commercialization. Three principles guided the strategic planning process: minimize duplication of programs and infrastructure, invest in programs that are of the highest priority, and create centres of excellence at locations throughout the province.

Accordingly, some of the changes include the consolidation of beef and dairy research at Guelph and in eastern Ontario, and the consolidation of sheep research at Guelph. At Ridgetown, the elimination of support for beef and dairy research programs is being offset by a greater emphasis on teaching and research in environmental programs. Vineland will continue to be the pre-eminent centre for tree fruit breeding and viticulture, while its programs in floriculture, ornamentals, postharvest physiology and greenhouse vegetable crops will move to Guelph. In addition, the mushroom program at Vineland will be relocated. At Guelph, faculty will increasingly be expected to use other diverse research funding opportunities available to them to meet their staffing and program costs. In addition, VCEP (Veterinary Clinical Education Program) programming will be focussed more significantly in areas that support disease prevention and surveillance in agricultural animals. Throughout the system, including Guelph, research programs judged to be of lower priority will no longer receive funding.

These and other strategic changes will involve program and staff changes at all our campuses, including Guelph, Kemptville, Alfred and Ridgetown, as well as at the University’s research stations in Thunder Bay, New Liskeard, Kettleby, Vineland, Simcoe, Emo and Cambridge. On a system-wide basis, the changes will directly affect about 60 positions. The University has worked aggressively to minimize the direct impact on individuals by reorganizing positions along strategic directions, taking advantage of vacant positions, where possible, reducing infrastructure costs and increasing revenues.

Fortunately, in the majority of cases, individual employment has not been affected, but the University regrets that up to a maximum of 10 individuals in full-time positions will lose their jobs. Affected individuals will be offered relocation counselling, severance allowances and other supports. The University is also working with employee group representatives to implement these changes and will continue to make every effort to reduce this number of personnel impacts.

We very much regret that valued employees will be affected by these decisions. This action is in no way a reflection on the importance of their past contributions to the University. In addition, I want to thank everyone who is a part of the OMAF/U of G partnership for their patience, creativity and compassion in helping to find approaches that have allowed us to move forward in our planning.

Strategic planning and review of resource allocation will be an ongoing process in the years to come and will rely on continued input from faculty and staff working within the OMAF system. It is important that the University makes every effort to preserve the diversity of programs that respond to the changes and challenges of Ontario’s agricultural sector in the 21st century.

We will provide additional information as relevant issues arise.

Alan Wildeman
Vice-President (Research)

For media questions and information, contact Lori Bona Hunt, Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 842-4120, Ext. 3338.

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