Feds finalize Growing Forward’s environment pillar

The environmental portion of the federal/provincial Growing Forward farm funding policy framework has been finalized to include a $200 million, five-year federal pledge for on-farm technical help and information-sharing.

“Funding will support initiatives to help farmers transfer research and knowledge into practice and to use science to improve their outcomes,” the government said in a release Friday.

“Technical assistance to farmers on land use and planning will be available, as well as information tools and data to help farmers achieve even greater results for the environment.”

The government said the environmental elements of Growing Forward are to focus on the “development and assessment of new agri-environmental knowledge, programs and initiatives.”

Such an approach is expected to allow farmers to address “key environmental challenges” such as agriculture’s impact on water quality and water use, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and the exploration of “new economic opportunities for farmers that encourage additional environmental action.”

The funding, the government said, can be broken down into four “key elements:”

1. Agri-environmental science, including a Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems (SAGES) initiative to “improve the scientific understanding of agriculture’s interaction with the environment,” worth $32.11 million over five years.

2. Knowledge and information tools, such as a Watershed Evaluation of BMPs (WEBs) program that helps farmers validate their practices’ environmental and economic performance; and Agri-Geomatics, a federal service to provide geomatics data to programs, businesses and local and regional land-use planners that require them ($62.73 million in all).

3. Sustainable on-farm practices, putting $91.38 million toward technical support to the industry to address specific environmental issues, and to develop and test new approaches to “incentive-based program design.”

4. Performance measurement and reporting, for which $13.28 million will go toward programs such as the National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting Program (NAHARP), to put a greater emphasis on refining and using agri-environmental indicators in decision-making; and the National Soil Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Verification System (NCGAVS), to monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions and changes in soil carbon stocks and further develop the analytical tools needed for related policy development.

Growing Forward is the federal, provincial and territorial ag policy funding framework for the years 2008 to 2012, following the previous five-year Agricultural Policy Framework (AFP) developed by Jean Chretien’s Liberal government.

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