Saturday, October 25, 2014

Funding being sought for major ag projects

The Rainy River Future Development Corp. last week applied to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. for $2 million to do major tile drainage and land-clearing projects for area producers which, if successful, will bring much-needed investment into the district.
Client services manager Geoff Gillon said the RRFDC is working with a consortium of local ag producers, who are willing to front half the money for the projects, in hopes the NOHFC will fund the other half.

Together the projects will cost an estimated $4 million.
The land-clearing project, which includes 18 partners, aims to clear 2,435 acres of land in various parts of the district over the next couple of years.
“Most of it was land that was previously cleared and it’s grown back a little bit,” noted Gillon, adding the land hopefully will be converted to pasture for raising beef or to grow some crops depending on how dry the land is.
The tile drainage project, which includes six partners, aims to see 2,114 acres of land tiled.
“When they tile it, it dries it out and allows for more cropping or to raise grain crops,” Gillon explained.
“When you tile drain a field, you’ll greatly increase the yield off of it,” he noted.
“It allows you to get on earlier and it allows you, through the year, to have better moisture control.
“What we’re hoping to do is expand the amount of grain that’s grown in Rainy River District because of changes in the wheat board,” Gillon added.
“They [producers] can now ship the grain directly into southern Minnesota, with those big cereal companies down there.”
Gillon said they hope to hear back from the NOHFC regarding the funding later this spring.
“We’re hoping that the Heritage Fund’s going to come onside,” he remarked, adding the projects have potential to yield both short- and long-term gains for producers and the district as a whole.
“It further diversifies the economy,” he reasoned. “From an economic development point of view, it’s a winner.”
In the short-term, contractors would be hired to clear land and install the drainage tiles.
Over the long-term, the ag sector is expanded and diversified.
“If they expand their grain crops, you expand your input costs, your fertilizer, your fuel, your machine time, you’re probably going to employ a couple more people,” Gillon said.
“It just brings more money into the district.”
Gillon also noted this diversification within the ag sector means that if one aspect of it, such as grain, is in a downturn, that’s not the only type of product being relied on.
Kim Jo Bliss of KJB Herefords in Emo is optimistic about the prospective projects.
“It’s absolutely fabulous news for agriculture,” she enthused Monday. “Tile drainage is one of the biggest assets you can add to your farm.
“The uptake alone indicates the level of importance.
“Agriculture is a growing industry and here in Rainy River District, this project is just one of the great things that are happening,” Bliss added.

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