Saturday, June 21, 2014

George Morris Centre dies

The George Morris Centre is dead.

What’s left of its assets is being donated to the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.

The closure comes after the centre seems to have lost its way.

It was started in 1988 by economist Dr. Larry Martin with money donated from by Ontario beef farmer George Morris.

He and Martin built an independent think tank to conduct research and present thought-provoking papers on agriculture policies.

The centre leaned to the right, promoting free enterprise and competition and questioning the wisdom of supply management and socialist policies.

Then Martin launched it into training programs, mainly for relatively large-scale family farms and for agri-business executives.

And then Martin Gooch came and built a major program around supply chain development and management. That work was spun off into a separate entity last year as were the education programs.

Kevin Grier, who came to the centre from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, developed a series of electronic newsletters for special-interest groups, such as those involved in meat packing and grocery retailing.

The quality of George Morris Centre research came into question in recent months, particularly papers prepared by senior research analyst Al Mussel on dairy policy and some joint work with Grier on food pricing.

Some of the strongest research in recent years was done by Bob Seguin on broad agriculture policy and by Kate Stiefelmeyer on competitiveness, strategic management, and regulatory and environmental policy. Both left the centre before it folded.

Martin handed over management of the centre to Bob Sequin in 2011. Seguin had been assistant deputy minister for policy development for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

He left the George Morris Centre in January to become director of economic development for the Niagara Region.

I am going to miss the outstanding papers prepared by Martin, Seguin and Stiefelmeyer and a few of the better ones by Mussel and Grier.