By Brantford Expositor
January 21, 2015 - Building an Ontario bio-economy.
Expanding the natural gas grid in the countryside.
And pushing greater infrastructure investment in rural municipalities.
Those are the Ontario Federation of Agriculture's top three priorities in upcoming provincial 2015-16 budget talks.
"We have been working to build a bio-economy here in Ontario, with a goal to attract and build bio-processing plans and develop additional energy generation through bio-digestion," OFA director Peter Lambrick writes in the organization's budget position paper.
"Assistance in drawing processing companies to Ontario for purpose-grown crops to help fuel our rural economy will be in the pre-budget submission."
The federation has been pushing bio-economy interests vigorously since the publication in 2013 of Alternative Technologies to Transform Bio-Mass into Energy, which was prepared for the OFA from background work done at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park.
"The agricultural sector in Ontario could not only be energy self-sufficient but could also provide biomass for energy use in other economic sectors," the report says.
It notes Ontario farms produce over 50 million tonnes of grains, beans and feeds and about 14 million tonnes of crop residues annually. About three million tonnes - 20 per cent of total crop residue produced - can be sustainably harvested annually.
An additional three million tonnes per year of biomass can be produced by planting purpose-grown crops such as miscanthus and switchgrass on less than 5 per cent of agricultural lands in Ontario.
And about 30-35 per cent of grain corn grown in Ontario is used to produce ethanol.