Research agency gets elected board


Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR), the one-year-old organization tasked with selecting and funding agricultural research in Alberta, has its first elected board of directors.

The non-profit group functioned for its first year with an appointed board that was advised in part by a 50-member advisory committee comprising marketing boards and commissions, industry associations, applied research and forage associations, and post-secondary institutions.

Board members were elected by representatives from the 33 member organizations with staggered terms of service. They are as follows:

  • D’Arcy Hilgartner of Camrose
  • Fred Lozeman of Claresholm
  • JP Brouwer of Ponoka
  • Stanford Blade of Edmonton
  • Brian Brewin of Taber
  • Melissa Downing of Metiskow
  • Steven Kenyon of Busby
  • David Chalack of Calgary
  • John Kolk of Picture Butte
  • Jason Lenz of Bentley

Terms for the first four names on this list expire in 2024, the next three in 2023 and the final three in 2022. The board itself then elected Chalack as chair and Downing as vice-chair.

Three of the elected board members served on the interim board: Chalack, Blade and Downing.

Chalack, who was also interim chair as RDAR was set up, said the first year of operations has been illuminating.

“A pleasant surprise… is the degree of collaboration there is with all of the stakeholders and the degree of the unified view of how crops and livestock can come together and work within one entity and put aside the personal interest,” said Chalack.

“That has been really the most pleasant surprise, for not only myself but all of the board who have worked tirelessly to get to this stage.”

Asked to comment on the lack of gender balance, Chalack said “that is certainly not by design and it has not escaped notice. I’m delighted that Melissa is our vice-chair.”

He added that member organizations decided which names to put forward to run for board positions.

The provincial government has committed $37 million annually to RDAR, which announced its first funding recipients in February and allocated $7 million to about 20 different research projects. Earlier this month it hired Dr. Mark Redmond as chief executive officer.

Creation of RDAR led to major changes within the provincial agriculture department, resulting in more than 200 jobs lost. Chalack said criticism of that move does not reflect on RDAR.

“It’s not my job to comment on government policy. We were given a mandate. RDAR was formed because the electorate voted in the current government,” he said, noting producers asked for farmer-led research before the election and it became part of the United Conservative Party’s platform.

Agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen said the new board is “a group of professionals from every corner of the province and well representing of the industry.”

RDAR’s stated mandate is “to support results-driven agriculture research priorities and programs that will increase competitiveness and profitability of Alberta’s agriculture industry.”

It is funded by the province and by the federal government through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.