Provincial government increases support for livestock production in northern Ontario
by JIM ALGIE
The Northern Livestock Pilot project announced in May by Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, followed both a provincial strategy and a growth plan for agricultural opportunities in northern Ontario.
Since 2009, the province has spent more than $3.7 million in project funding for Northern Ontario agri-food research, OMAFRA media relations strategist Kristy Denette said in a statement to Better Farming. As well, the province has provided $12.7 million over the past four years to improve 25,500 acres of agricultural land and strengthen production through Northern Ontario Heritage Fund grants, the May 12 announcement said.
An initiative of the Northern Ontario Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Processing (AAFP) Sector Strategy, the livestock pilot seeks to support local food access, jobs, growth and diversification of the northern economy, Denette said.
In the May statement announcing the pilot, Minister Leal emphasized his government’s “commitment to Northern Ontario” through “job creation, economic diversification and access to local food.”
“I look forward to working with our partners and indigenous communities to develop meaningful and tangible solutions that will improve economic outcomes and expand food choices for Ontario’s Northern residents,” Leal said.
The livestock pilot includes continuing demonstration and experimental projects at agricultural research stations in New Liskeard and Emo, concentrating on field crops for the northern Ontario climate and seasonal grazing of beef cattle.
Other study subjects to date include: improved animal welfare during transport, forage-finishing of beef, biofuel crops and water efficiencies for dairy farms, Denette’s statement said. Provincial officials have invited further proposals for priority research on the environmental dynamics of converting raw or abandoned land to agricultural production and removing barriers to livestock agriculture in the Great Clay Belt of northeastern Ontario.
Ministry officials have also started updating soil maps in the Cochrane-Hearst corridor and Timmins to Temiskaming Shores region, Denette said. Updated maps are to be made available through the online Land Information Ontario (LIO) data warehouse.
As well, the livestock pilot seeks “to develop a limited amount of Crown land for the pilot sites to be used for commercially-viable livestock operations,” Denette said. She warned, however, that Crown land access is “not a simple process” and includes respect for indigenous rights and “multiple other competing interests.”
Food production in northern Ontario supports more than 4,000 jobs and contributes $230 million in revenue from agriculture and aquaculture alone, Denette said. BF