Ontario recently announced a $15.6 million investment in northern ag
By Diego Flammini
A northern Ontario ag organization will use a provincial investment to further develop local dairy and grain sectors.
The Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) will receive over $3.4 million of Ontario’s $15.6-million investment into 27 northern agricultural projects.
NOFIA will use a majority of its funding to help 71 farmers clear land and install tile drainage, which is an integral part of farming in that area of the province, Norm Koch, chair of NOFIA, said.
“Tile drainage is very important up here,” he told Farms.com today. “It allows the ground to warm up about a week earlier in the spring and gives farmers more time to complete their work in the fall.”
Northern Ontario’s dairy industry could also benefit from the government’s investment.
The region is currently home to four dairy processing plants, OMAFRA said.
NOFIA put $67,455 towards a dairy strategy to explore ways to increasing dairy processing in the region, Koch said. The dairy strategy will also include a transportation component.
“If there is more room for dairy processing, it’s to help the products get to markets with larger populations like Southern Ontario,” Koch told Farms.com today.
“We already have other goods hauled up here in reefer trucks, so we’ll look at if there’s a way to ship something back. We already have the means to produce and process the milk, now we need a way to get it to market.”
Another focus of NOFIA’s funding is grain handling.
NOFIA will use $22,500 to explore the construction of a rail unloading/loading facility in Timiskaming, 920km away from Thunder Bay.
This investment speaks to northern producers’ increased grain production, said Koch, who is also the president of Koch Farms, a grain elevator in Earlton, Ont.
“There’s been rail movement in the area but. as we increase grain farming in Northern Ontario, we’d like to utilize rail more,” he said. “One of the holdbacks has been the lack of a permanent place to load rail cars quickly.”
“We use portable equipment right now, so a permanent site would be great for more efficient loading and grain movement.”
The government’s attention to northern ag may also attract new farmers.
Land in some southern regions averaged about $50,000 per acre, according to an OFA and University of Guelph report on farmland and rental values.
High land costs paired with government support may have some growers looking north, Koch said.
“Beginning farmers aren’t finding it easy to acquire land in parts of southern Ontario so they’re looking up here where they can get the land they need,” he said.
“The same thing happened in Eastern Ontario about 40 years ago. There wasn’t as much (farming) going on there now as there was back then. If Northern Ontario can be like Eastern Ontario in 30 years, that would be great.”
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