Farming positively impacts district economy

Dave Ogilvie

Farming in Rainy River District is having a positive impact on the local economy according to a three-year study entitled “Thunder Bay District Agricultural Economic Impact Study.”
Don Murray, a consultant with Harry Cummings and Associates Inc., presented the findings of the report, which was funded by a variety of agencies including FedNor, to members of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture at their annual meeting Saturday night at the Barwick Hall.
Murray said the study shows how much agriculture is connected to the economy, and gives an unprecedented look at present and future food production in the Thunder Bay, Dryden/Kenora, Rainy River, and Cochrane areas.
The study took a broad look at all the businesses that interact with agriculture and how they impact the local economy.
“We collected information on farm numbers, type, and size, demographics, technology use, off-farm income, local infrastructure, physical and agricultural characteristics, [and] factors affecting land availability,” Murray noted.
“The study also compiled information on past and emerging trends, such as labour market trends, along with other circumstances that have a bearing on the capacity for agriculture to remain a viable sector in each district,” he added.
The report, which is in its final stage of completion, will provide stakeholders with some solid information about their industry to back their efforts “to influence policy-makers and to create a higher level of awareness for the

agricultural sector.”
Agriculture in the districts of Thunder Bay, Dryden/Kenora, Rainy River, and Cochrane has never been the subject of a study of this kind.
The RRFA believes the “Thunder Bay District Agricultural Economic Impact Study” will help show the rest of the province that farming in the north is vital to the region’s future, and will assist its members as they actively promote the development and importance of local food production.
This sentiment was echoed by local MPP Howard Hampton, who also spoke at the RRFA’s annual meeting.
“As the price of oil climbs and remains high, local food production will become even more important,” Hampton said.
“It won’t make sense to ship food halfway around the world when we have so many high-quality agricultural products right here in the district,” he enthused.
As the “eat local” movement gathers momentum and spreads across the country, it is becoming more apparent that local food production helps to ensure consistent, stable food access while bolstering local economies.
The study clearly indicates farming is on the rise in this area of the province and that with the continued support of the district research facility, and with the development of more added-value opportunities, agriculture will continue to be a driving force in our local economy.