By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Modern farms run on energy. It’s one of the most expensive input costs for Ontario farmers. That’s why it’s a key election issue for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) in the lead up to the June 12 provincial election. We’re focusing on four key issues with candidates over the next few weeks, and the need for competitively priced energy is second in our series of election commentaries.
Rising energy costs hurt the overall competitiveness and profitability for Ontario farms and rural businesses. We’re asking provincial candidates to commit to expanding natural gas infrastructure to deliver natural gas into more rural areas, and ensure affordable and competitive rates for electricity. Access to affordable energy will fuel further growth and opportunities in our rural economy.
When it comes to natural gas, we’re proposing a multi-year project to expand the natural gas pipeline network across rural Ontario to help farmers reduce operating costs like heating barns and greenhouses, running grain dryers and heating hot water tanks.
Access to natural gas is a serious game changer for farmers, businesses and rural Ontario residents. At half the cost of electricity and one third the cost of propane, more widespread access to low-cost natural gas is the single best investment Ontario can make in its rural economy, and provide added incentives to attract new food processing, manufacturing and service firms to rural Ontario.
We simply can’t grow our economy without more widespread access to natural gas. It is estimated that a fully expanded natural gas system across rural Ontario would free up more than $1 billion per year of new disposable income for rural Ontarians to invest in and build our rural economy.
Farmers and rural businesses also have a heavy reliance on electricity, and we must have more affordable, competitive rates. Ontario now has among the highest electricity rates across all other North American jurisdictions. It’s just not sustainable for farming. And it’s not sustainable for the Ontario processing industry that purchases most of our products. We are calling on the government to find ways to deliver affordable electricity rates for farms and industry to keep us all competitive.
It doesn’t really matter where you live or work, we all rely on energy. For Ontario farmers, we know energy is a cost of business but it shouldn’t cost us our business. We need our politicians to know that competitively priced energy is a must have for rural Ontario.
For more information about competitively priced energy for rural Ontario, and all OFA election issues, visit our provincial election site at GrowingOntario.ofa.on.ca