Agriculture

Take Action to Preserve Environment for Future

Making farms more valuable through better soil conservation, water quality, biodiversity and more

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The value of a farm can be measured in part by what it can produce in the future. Managing the land well and paying attention to the health of its water, soil and other natural resources will help it stay productive.

Many Manitoba farmers have already carefully studied the environmental health of their operations. Since 2004, more than 6,000 Manitoba producers have completed an environmental farm plan (EFP) for more than 9.3 million acres of land in this province. And more farmers are completing plans every year.

Jewel Mazur, farm production advisor for agri-environment at Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) says that environmental farm plans give producers a better handle on their operations.

"EFPs encourage farmers to review all aspects of their operations while allowing evaluation of the safety and environmental impact of their practices," she says. "The more producers that do an EFP, the more we can ensure we are producing high quality food in an environmentally responsible manner."

EFPs are voluntary, confidential, self assessments that point out the agri-environmental assets and risks on farms. They help farmers improve water conservation, enrich soil quality, reduce emissions and enhance biodiversity. Once farmers complete the plans, they are eligible to apply for a range of funding opportunities to improve their farms through Growing Forward 2 - a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

There are three steps to completing an EFP: attending a workshop, completing a workbook and having the workbook reviewed. The EFP program is administered and delivered by MAFRD and reviewed by Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), which acts as an independent third party.

The half-day workshop goes over the main objectives of farm planning and describes how to complete the workbook. This helps farmers understand how to assess the soil and site characteristics on their farm. It also explains agriculture capability and soil limitations.

At the end of the workshop, farmers can work on their plans at the workshop site or take them home to finish. Facilitators help guide farmers through the process, in person or over the phone, as they complete their workbooks and make a farm action plan.

Producers must make an appointment to meet with a KAP reviewer to review their workbooks and farm action plans. KAP then issues a Statement of Completion which is valid for the next five years.

"Environmental farm plans are a thorough record of all your operations and can assist in further planning, be it farm transfer or expansion," says Mazur. "The best thing is that the workbook never has to leave the farmer's hands."

The workbook includes information that encourages farmers to learn about environmental regulations and the best practices to use.

"The workbook makes the participants aware that there are regulations associated with some of the variables on their farm," she says. "It can drive them to do some research to find out where their farm fits, if they aren't already aware."

Mazur adds that producers who complete an EFP often tell her it was a useful and positive experience. Many discover new ways to improve the long term value of their farms.

For more information about EFPs and to sign up for a workshop, contact your local MAFRD GO Office. Depending on demand, workshops are offered in person or through video conference at MAFRD locations throughout the province.

Growing Forward 2

Two of the most common Growing Forward 2 programs that require producers to complete an EFP are Growing Assurance - Environment and Growing Assurance - Ecological Goods and Services.

The programs allow farmers and organizations to apply for funding for things like relocating livestock confinement facilities that are too close to water, installing grassed waterways and much more.

What farmers have to say about environmental farm plans:

  • "I wanted to see where I could save money on my operation and help the environment. It wasn't that much work - in fact, I took it home and went through the workbook at my own pace."
    Gary Hamm, cattle producer, Morden
  • "Farmers are concerned about the environment and keeping it for future generations, but when you go through the workbook, you suddenly realize you could do this differently."
    Lorne Rossnagel, cattle and forage producer, Plumas
  • "On our farm, it was a great success. It made us feel part of the solution."
    Henry Holtmann, dairy farmer, Rosser