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Agriculture, directly and indirectly, makes up half of Lethbridge’s economy and jobs

LETHBRIDGE, AB – Economic Development Lethbridge’s CEO Trevor Lewington spoke on Thursday about the impact that agriculture in Lethbridge and the surrounding area has on the city.
 
Just in terms of those working directly in the sector, he says it is massive.
 
“For Lethbridge specifically, it’s 20% of our economy – it’s the largest sector of the economy. A lot of people don’t realize that. They think, ‘Oh, an urban municipality like Lethbridge.’ Ag is the biggest chunk of our economy.
 
Approximately two-to-three thousand people are directly employed in agriculture, with 900 farms in the region generating $1.1-billion every year, or around 20% of the local GDP.
 
When you include the jobs that are indirectly tied to farming, such as food processing, transportation, insurance, and research, those numbers grow exponentially.
 
In processing alone, some of the larger companies in the Lethbridge area include Cavendish Farms, McCain’s, PepsiCo, Richardson Oilseed, Sunrise Poultry, Maple Leaf Products, Broxburn Vegetables, and Agropour Cheese.
 
Lewington estimates that, when you take these other sectors into account as well, around half of Lethbridge’s workforce is involved in agriculture.
 
“Over the last couple of years, of course, the province has struggled. Lethbridge has outperformed – we’ve done better. We’ve seen positive economic growth when other municipalities have seen a contraction, and honestly, it’s because of our base in agriculture.”
 
“That’s the key piece, as long as trade is good, we can weather that storm. Agriculture typically performs in a very stable, positive way,” Lewington adds.
 
The business of agriculture is not without its problems, though.
 
Lewington says, perhaps the biggest struggle many farmers are dealing with is international trade.
 
The European Union is focused more on figuring out what will happen with Brexit as opposed to strengthening trade relations with Canada, China has taken more canola in recent years while banning or threatening to ban the imports of other Canadian crops, and policies in the United States “seems to be done by Tweet as opposed to by congress.”
 
Many farmers are also concerned with farm safety regulations that changed under the former NDP administration and will once again change with the UCP in power.
 
As they always do, though, communities, farms, and businesses are working on innovative solutions.
 
He touted the group known as Canada’s Premier Food Corridor that has Lethbridge, Coaldale, Taber, and the surrounding areas try to sell the region collectively rather than each municipality fighting for the same resources.
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