Natural Gas the next big Innovation in Agriculture

Natural gas represents next big innovation 2

Debra Pretty-Straathof, Special to the Examiner

Monday, November 3, 2014 2:15:21 EST PM

An Enbridge Gas Distribution vehicle. EXAMINER FILES

Delivering natural gas to rural Ontario will be the biggest game changer on farms since tractors replaced horse power. Natural gas expansion to farms and rural Ontario communities promises to dramatically boost business – by significantly lowering energy costs. That’s the message the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) delivered to government at the recent Natural Gas Opportunities for Ontario event at Queen’s Park.

The OFA strongly advocated for expanding natural gas at a recent Queen’s Park event alongside industry partners Enbridge and Union Gas. Taking part in a panel discussion, OFA laid out the economic benefits of replacing electricity, propane and heating fuel with natural gas. Natural gas is currently only available to less than 20% of Ontario farms and rural households. Simply expanding access to natural gas to just 60% of Ontario farms, rural residents and businesses would free up $800 million per year in new disposable income. Imagine the amount of reinvestment and economic development those savings would fuel in rural Ontario.

The Natural Gas Opportunities for Ontario event gave OFA a platform to outline the importance of expanding natural gas to rural and small towns across Ontario to MPPs, political decision makers and energy industry representatives. The OFA reminded attendees that energy ranks as one of the biggest input costs for Ontario farmers, and access to natural gas will make our farms more competitive, and our communities will attract new agri-business ventures.

The OFA has been advocating for affordable, accessible natural gas across rural Ontario, and continues to push government for progress. The recently announced loan and grant program – $200 million in loans and $30 million grant over two years – is a good start. We will learn from the initial work and move to a long term program to provide gas to rural Ontario.

We know what our industry and rural Ontario needs to grow and continue contributing to the provincial economy. And it starts with affordable natural gas.

The OFA is committed to continue building the momentum. And our message to government is clear. Greater access to affordable natural gas will fuel future growth across rural Ontario, and keep our industry strong.

Debra Pretty-Straathof is an executive member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.