Extension rejected for Thunder Bay research station

Operators of the Thunder Bay research station had hoped for good news this Thanksgiving, but it appears it still will close at the end of the month as previously announced.
Gord Scheifele, research co-ordinator for Northwestern Ontario and crop technology advisor at the Thunder Bay research station, said yesterday that a plan to keep it open at least another month was rejected last week by the University of Guelph.
As previously reported in the Times, the University of Guelph and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food had announced in August that the station would be closed Oct. 31.
“They turned down our plan of using some funds that we have accumulated over the last five years of research at the Thunder Bay station to keep the station open around a month to finish this year’s work,” said Scheifele.
He noted their research station had raised money through crop trials paid for by various seed companies.
The money was saved to purchase replacement equipment, such as a harvester, down the road. But when the station was earmarked for closure, staff asked that these funds instead be used to keep it open long enough to compile this year’s data.
The vice-president of research at the University of Guelph “was very adamant that the decision was made and Oct. 31 would be the final date,” Scheifele remarked.
“I was very, very disappointed. It seemed like a good allocation. The money is there,” he said.
With the closure of the Thunder Bay research station going ahead, Scheifele warned it is only a matter of time before the one in Emo also would be closed.
“The university admitted they are not finished with cuts,” he said. “They are still looking for another million [dollars] in cuts.
“It is our speculation that it is not profitable for [the Emo station] to stand by itself,” Scheifele said. “If you look at $75,000 to operate it, that’s close to 10 percent [of the cuts still coming].”
Still, Tannis Drysdale of Fort Frances, president of the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce, said she isn’t giving up hope the station can be saved.
NOACC has met with Confederation College to see if it would be interested in a project at this time, though Drysdale said that wasn’t an available option.
NOACC also has a meeting scheduled with the head of research at the University of Guelph to discuss the matter.
“We have a conference call in the coming week and we hope the call will result in them keeping the research station open,” Drysdale said yesterday.
At this point, Drysdale remains optimistic a solution can be found.
“The lobby effort until now has been pretty quiet,” she admitted. “It is incumbent on all of us to make the pressure and to make it known that we care about research stations.”
“We’re just hoping that something will come through,” echoed Scheifele.

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