Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 07, 2003

Study on economic impacts of agriculture receives federal support

A University of Guelph research project that involves compiling a province-wide report on the social and economic impacts of agriculture on rural communities received support from the federal government today.

The Canadian Agricultural Rural Communities Initiative and the Canadian Rural Partnership’s Rural Development Initiative awarded $20,350 to Prof. Harry Cummings, School of Rural Planning and Development, and researcher Don Murray. The funding was announced by Andy Mitchell, Secretary of State (Rural Development) (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario). “Our rural communities play an important role in the success of Canada as a whole,” said Mitchell, who was in Guelph for a town hall meeting on building strong urban and rural communities.

Cummings and Murray have been studying Ontario’s agricultural rural economies county by county for the past five years. “We are exploring the link between agriculture and the rural economies beyond the farm gate,” Cummings said. “This new study will look at Ontario as a whole, pulling all of the county reports together, examining lessons learned and looking at future directions for rural communities.”

Putting a monetary value on the influence agriculture has on the province’s economy will have a significant impact on future planning processes, the researchers said. They also hope to identify trends and potential development opportunities. “Rural communities in Ontario are facing a number of issues and challenges as a result of changes in the agriculture sector,” Murray said. One of the more notable ones is the substantial decline in farm employment, a trend that has led some analysts to discount the importance of agriculture to other economic sectors. “Farm interest groups have become more active in responding to the perception of agriculture as an industry in decline,” he said, adding that many are concerned that important decisions might be made without a complete understanding of agriculture’s total impact on the wider economy.

It was this worry that prompted the initial study that spearheaded the research project. In 1996, Huron County farmers asked Cummings to look at how much revenue their industry generated for the region. The results were so impressive that more than 25 other counties, districts, farm interest groups and industry stakeholders approached him and requested similar studies. Those county reports -- which will be used to produce the composite provincial report -- show that farm-gate sales and agriculture-related businesses generate between $500 million and $3.5 billion annually per county and create tens of thousands jobs directly and indirectly.

“The research demonstrates that agriculture continues to have a significant economic impact in many local economies,” Cummings said. “This includes every region of the province, from the most rural and remote areas to areas coming under intense urban development pressures.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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