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More people needed for careers in agriculture

LETHBRIDGE- Canada needs more people to work in agriculture, according to Bill McGregor, the agri-scientist in residence at the University of Lethbridge.

McGregor had a distinguished career. After receiving his PhD in soil biochemistry he spent 40 years working with the University of Manitoba, Canada Centre for Inland Waters, Eli Lilly Canada and Dow AgroSciences. He also shared his expertise with government committees, industry boards, university researchers and students.

He said there is a strong demand for people to work in Canada’s agriculture industry.

“It’s a high tech industry,” McGregor said, “but there aren’t enough people in any one area to grow.”

One reason is the large number of people who are retiring.

“There’s a whole group of baby boomers that are disappearing,” he said. “We’ve got to replace those people. There are also new technologies like bio-tech and that type of thing that are coming in. We also need really good sound agronomists.”

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McGregor says agriculture should do a better job promoting itself. Promote the true value of agriculture instead of talking about how bad tings are.

“The value at the farm gate is about $11 billion for Alberta and inputs are about $9 billion so there’s a lot of room for people producing services for farmers,”he said. Many of those people will come from universities.

McGregor cautioned people not to think Canada is so advanced that it doesn’t need to do more.

“I’ve worked internationally,” he said. “Canada is very well recognized but if we don’t keep up we’ll fall behind and catching up is always harder.”

McGregor is lecturing biological science and geography students, meeting with faculty and doing other things during his week as agri-scientist in residence. It is the first time the university has appointed one.

“We wanted to bring in someone from the private sector to impress upon students the opportunities in agriculture beyond academics, to answer questions they have about future careers and just the range of possibilities,” said Danny Le Roy, chair of the University of Lethbridge economics department.

“Agriculture’s not simply just farming,” he said. “It’s farm gate to final consumer.”

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