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Ontario Leads Ag Equipment Manufacturing

May 26, 2017: In the fall of 2016, I met with two senior government officials, one from Ontario and another from the federal government who asked if there was much agricultural equipment manufactured in Canada. As president of the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada (AMC), with just under 300 members across the country, I appreciated the question. I highlighted that, at the time, Canadian agricultural implement manufacturers exported just over $1.8 billion of goods to more than 150 countries.

The province broke the national record for agricultural implement exports in 2015.

In 2015, Ontario broke the record for the most agricultural implements ever exported from Canada, recording $737.2 million of export sales. Manitoba set the previous record in 2013 with $698.9 million of export sales.

The trend of Ontario leading the agricultural implement exports continued in 2016. According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, the province exported $710 million of goods. Manitoba, which was traditionally the lead exporting province of agricultural implements, exported $502 million in 2016.

Clearly, agricultural implements are being made in Canada.

Agricultural equipment manufacturers or “shortlines” are different from mainline manufacturers in that we produce niche agricultural equipment and are known in the agricultural equipment manufacturing industry as the “innovators.” Mainline manufacturers are those that can provide a full line of products to farmers. Mainliners include John Deere, New Holland, Case IH and AGCO. Some of the shortlines that are AMC members include Ag Growth International (AGI), Bauman Manufacturing, Buhler Industries, Penta, Salford, Tubeline Manufacturing, RJ Equipment and Walinga.

Why is this important in the agricultural industry and specifically to farmers in Ontario?
Machinery has been at the heart of Canadian agriculture for many years. It shaped agricultural practices and, in many respects, created the opportunity for rapid European settlement in the late 1800s. The agricultural equipment manufacturing industry has progressively developed as an entity separate from commercial or industrial manufacturing.

Central to this evolution was the need to develop agricultural machinery that was capable of meeting the challenges of the Canadian climate. This drive for innovation was critical to farmers who struggled with foreign equipment designed for smaller farms and less arid conditions. These same challenges have enabled Canadian agricultural equipment manufacturers to be global leaders in the development and production of high-quality, durable and innovative machinery. For example, one manufacturer located in southwestern Ontario exports to over 45 countries.

Shortline manufacturers tend to be privately owned, with the owners often attending farm shows and speaking directly with farmers at their exhibits. More than 50 per cent of agricultural equipment manufacturers in Canada are located in communities with populations less than 10,000. These companies offer great employment opportunities – not just in manufacturing and welding, but also in marketing, finance, IT and human resources. In short, we are big employers in rural areas. Being part of the community and working with farmers is vital to our business.

I am grateful to the two senior officials that asked whether there is much agricultural equipment manufacturing in Canada … absolutely there is. It was encouraging to read in the Ontario budget that the government recognizes agriculture as a cornerstone of the economy. By working with farmers, our hope is that together we will help make Canada a global powerhouse of farmers and shortliners. BF

Leah Olson, MBA, MPPPA, is president of the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada (AMC), a national industry association fostering and promoting the growth and development of the agricultural equipment manufacturing industry in Canada. AMC held its inaugural exposition, “Ontario – A Leader in Agricultural Equipment Manufacturing” in Guelph on April 21.
As published in Better Farming magazine, June 2017

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