Local MPP Greg Rickford doled out funding for four district farms during the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture's annual dinner and meeting Saturday night at the Millennium Hall in Stratton.
Some $44,500 was earmarked for Delton Martin's cattle operation in Stratton while $43,500 went to Allen Jolicouer to purchase a tractor for his cow/calf operation in Barwick.
Another $32,500 went to Cornell Farms in Devlin to expand their dairy farming operations, with A.G.'s Produce in Emo receiving just under $9,000 to build an additional greenhouse.
RRFA president Lisa Teeple said the organization is grateful for the local investments and glad to know Northwestern Ontario is being thought of on the provincial level.
“Sometimes people in this region feel like we are forgotten because of the distance that we are from Queens Park,” she noted.
“So it was great to have our regional representative—our regional MPP—as part of the government.”
“For the longest time we never use to see our representation,” Teeple added.
“Supporting Ontario's agri-food sector is good for people and businesses in the north,” Rickford, who also is the minister of energy, northern development and mines, said in a press release issued Saturday.
“These investments are helping farmers and small businesses expand and create opportunities to grow our economy while enhancing the competitiveness and producing prosperity in rural and urban areas,” he noted.
About 70 farmers, producers, and interested members of the farming community attended the RRFA's annual dinner and meeting.
“We had a nice full house," said Teeple. ”We were pleased with the attendance.
“It was a good mixture," she noted. ”We had our senior farmers, young farmers, and middle-aged farmers, so it was really nice to see the whole age sector.
“It was a good opportunity, too, for people in agriculture to be able to get together and visit,” Teeple added.
“Everyone's so busy it's few and far between that we can have these opportunities.”
Teeple also said Rickford was able to stay for the dinner after the making the funding announcement and had the chance to mingle with the district's farming community.
“It was a really nice opportunity for our guests to have the ear of the minister and talk about their concerns for our region,” she said.
Some of the issues brought to Rickford's attention included the conditions of Highway 71 and the 600 series.
Other concerns included the lack of an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs advisor here.
“[The previous one] retired in June, right at the time of the provincial election, and then, of course, there was a hiring freeze and we haven't had our OMAFRA advisor, agricultural development advisor replaced,” Teeple explained.
“It's a worry for a lot of people in agriculture because it is just one more . . . resource that this district has lost if they don't replace that position,” she stressed.
Other issues RRFA members focused on was agricultural plastics and how to get a program in place to recycle them.
“That's our focus for this coming year," Teeple said. "We're going to get the municipalities to become more involved and, hopefully, we will have a depot established.”
Peter Jeffrey of the Ontario Federation of Agricultural was the guest speaker, who talked about how the Highway Traffic Act affects agricultural vehicles.
He went over any rule changes and specifics when driving agricultural equipment like tractors, ATVs, and other machinery on the road, and explained what the rules are when crossing roadways.
“He talked about what's allowed, what's not allowed, whether you need a vehicle licence or whether you need a driver's licence to drive [certain vehicles],” Teeple noted.
"He went over all the intricacies that people don't think about on a day-to-day basis.
“It's a good reminder," she added. "People need to remember the rules and regulations and the safety that is involved with these types of farm equipment, off-road vehicles, trailers, and things like that.”
Also Saturday, two new members of the RRFA were introduced, Barbara Miller and Tracy Haglin, who will be joining the board for its first official meeting on Jan. 8.
Moving forward, the RRFA will continue to pursue the agricultural plastics issue, help support the local “Catch the Ace” draw, and advocate for the filling of the OMAFRA advisor vacancy.