Money for on-farm projects has dried up, but EFP’s still have value

Environmental Farm Plan workshops are still going in Saskatchewan and will start up again in Alberta next month. Manitoba awaits a funding announcement from the federal government.

The EFP program, which was launched in Western Canada five years ago under the federal Agricultural Policy Framework, essentially wrapped up early in 2008. This put program delivery, at least in Alberta and Manitoba, on hold until new funding was in place. Saskatchewan received a one-year temporary extension to its program making it possible to continue EFP workshop delivery uninterrupted until April 2009. Saskatchewan already has several workshops planned for between now and the end of the year.

It is expected new longer term funding for EFP program delivery for all provinces will be covered in a new federal initiative called Growing Forward, which is currently being finalized.

In the meantime, Alberta Agriculture has stepped in to provide at least interim funding to restart EFP programming in Alberta, and federal/provincial negotiations are underway in Manitoba.

Records show about 30,000 farmers and ranchers across the Prairies participated in EFP workshops in the first five years. They completed 24,200 plans, which covered 35million to 40 million acres of farmland.

The National Farm Stewardship Program, which kicked in government money to help farmers with approved EFP projects, is not available right now. It is estimated the combined government/ producer contributions through the farm stewardship program amounted to about $300 million Prairie wide. No new funding under the stewardship program has been announced.

EFP workshops for Alberta

The first EFP workshop schedule in Alberta in several months should be posted in December, says Mike Slomp, executive director of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company.

EFP workshops in Alberta for 2009 will be offered in a one-day format as opposed to the two-day process in the past, says Slomp.

Workshops will be led by a program co-ordinator with the help of specially trained technical assistants (TA).

“We expect the TAs to be very involved with producers as they develop their individual environmental farm plans,” says Slomp. “The TAs are specialists with a wide range of experience and expertise who work full time for organizations such as Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture (AESA), county and municipal agricultural service boards, PFRA, Ducks Unlimited and UFA.

Since the program was launched in 2003 nearly 12,500 producers participated in workshops, with 8,300 environmental plans completed. Slomp predicts about 1,000 will be involved in workshops in 2009.

“The national farm stewardship program provided a nice financial incentive for producers to get involved in environmental farm planning,” says Slomp. “But, more producers now realize this type of planning is fundamental to the continued success of their farming operations.

“Being aware of environmental issues and the environmental impact of routine farming practices is key to maintaining productivity of the land, to protecting soil and water quality and to enhancing bio-diversity. There is increasing interest from the public, as well as those doing business with primary producers, in knowing that crops and livestock are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

Slomp says in any locale where 10 producers are interested in EFP, the company will organize a workshop. For details on the 2009 workshop schedule call the AEFP office toll free at 1-866-844-2337 or visit their website at: www.AlbertaEFP.com

EFP in Saskatchewan

“We have really been fortunate in Saskatchewan to have such strong producer support for the EFP program,” says Tammy Ceaser, EFP program assistant. “Even though financial assistance that helps with implementation of changes in production and management practices (stewardship program) is no longer available, we continue with the awareness and education aspect provided through EFP workshops.”

To date more than 10,280 environmental farm plans have been completed in Saskatchewan, covering an estimated 25 per cent of provincial farmland. Producers have completed more than 9,000 cost-shared projects — including 1,100 riparian-area protection projects — through the EFP planning process.

The Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification Boards (PCAB) administers Saskatchewan’s EFP program. For more details on the program, call the PCAB office in Saskatoon toll free at: 1-866-298-7222 ext 204 or visit the website at www.saskpcab.com/efp.

EFP in Manitoba

Manitoba will not schedule any new EFP planning workshops until details of the federal Growing Forward program are announced, says Wanda McFayden, executive director of the Farm Stewardship Association of Manitoba (FSAM). A primary role of the non-profit FSAM is delivery of environmental farm planning in Manitoba. “We are hoping we will be back into offering EFP workshops early in 2009.”

McFayden says up to September of 2008 more than 7,000 Manitoba producers had attended EFP workshops and completed 5,600 individual farm plans, which covered nearly nine million acres of Manitoba farmland.

For more information on EFP in Manitoba, contact the FSAM office toll free at 1-866-872-8521 or go to the Manitoba Agriculture website and click on the EFP link at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/soilwater/farmplan/.

Lee Hart is field editor of Grainews, based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]

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