Govt snub setback for research group

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
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Agricultural research has been dealt a blow after a funding bid from the Beef Co-operative Research Centre was rejected last month.

Beef CRC chief executive Heather Burrow said it was unfortunate that funding was to be withdrawn from its research projects, because many were at a stage of becoming commercialised for industry.

Dr Burrow said projects included determining the best cattle for long-term feeding for the Japanese beef market and identifying Brahman females that were more fertile.

"Funding was to be used towards new genomics technology, which would help identify cattle with good genetic merit in regards to breeding and productivity," she said.

"Now, what would have taken us five years to achieve may take 20."

Dr Burrow said if alternative funding could not be found, it could have a big impact on the Australian beef industry's production and profitability.

"The timing of this funding opportunity loss is very bad," Dr Burrow said.

"Not only are Australian farmers facing the challenge of climate change, they will not be benefiting from the newest technology available for genomic research."

Dr Burrow said DNA markers in Australian cattle discovered by the Beef CRC had an accuracy on average of 40 per cent, and new genomics technology could lift this to 60 per cent.

"The Beef CRC needs to continue its research. What we are doing is not the sort of research than can be imported from the European Union or northern America," she said.

Dr Burrow said implementation of research that was completed or was only six months away from completion at the Beef CRC would also be affected.

"We were just on the point of breakthrough for a lot of our research," she said.

Dr Burrow believed the decision not to fund the Beef CRC may have been influenced by the reduction in funding available. She said funding was now down to being able to support three to five applications, with 26 CRCs applying for a share of the money.

Meanwhile, National Farmers' Federation president Jock Laurie has called on the Government to recognise the importance of agricultural research and development and the role of research centres in achieving this. He said he was disappointed funding to agricultural research and development had been reduced.

"Domestically, $33 million has been taken away from the CRC budget at a time when the need for investment has never been greater," he said.

Compared with when CRC funding was first introduced, not only has the amount of funding to CRC research been reduced but the amount of applicants eligible for this money has increased.

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