Agriculture Canada initiated a project in January 1993 to develop environmental indicators
for the agricultural resource sector. In the first phase, a set of indicators was to be developed
which made best use of existing data. A second, longer-term phase would focus on improving and
refining the initial set of environmental indicators.
The objective of the agri-environmental indicator development project is to develop a core set of
agri-environmental indicators which will:
- provide a capability for evaluating the environmental sustainability of the agricultural sector,
in particular from a national perspective.
- provide agri-food decision-makers and stakeholders with succinct information on key trends in
the sector in relation to environmental sustainability.
- through the provision of relevant information, facilitate the integration of environmental
considerations into the sector's policy-making, programming and planning processes.
The importance of environmental information in general, and the need to develop
environmental indicators in particular, has been recognized both nationally and internationally,
as well as within the Canadian agri-food sector. For example:
The agri-environmental indicator project is, in part, a response to such initiatives and recommendations.
The project also reflects a basic need within the department and sector for more concise and
accessible environmental information on which to base and evaluate policies and facilitate program design
- At the 1989 G-7 Economic Summit, member countries agreed on the priority of environmental indicators
and tasked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with development
of an international set of environmental indicators. Research by the OECD is underway in this area,
including within the OECD Food, Agriculture & Fisheries Directorate.
- The federal Green Plan (1990) identified environmental information as being key to sound decision-making
and committed the federal government to developing and releasing, on a periodic basis, a comprehensive
set of indicators that measure Canada's progress in achieving its environmental goals. Work to develop
environmental indicators is ongoing at the federal level, both at Environment Canada and in
several resource departments.
- In 1990, the Federal-Provincial Agriculture Committee on Environmental Sustainability reported to
the federal and provincial Ministers of Agriculture. Recommendation 11 of the Committee's report, which was
endorsed by all Ministers, called for the development of "indicators to monitor
and assess the state of natural resources and environmental quality in relation to agriculture.
- The Science Council of Canada, in recommendation 15 of its 1992 report "Sustainable Agriculture:
The Research Challenge", called for the development of physical and biological indicators against which alternative
agricultural practices can be assessed.
- In 1992, the Canadian Agricultural Services Coordinating Committee recommended that increased efforts
be made within the sector to develop a set of environmental indicators that would adequately reflect the state
or sustainability of the agricultural environment.
- In recommendation 19 of its 1992 report "The Path to Sustainable Agriculture",
the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture recognized the importance of monitoring Canadian
agriculture's progress towards sustainability.
- In its 1993 audit of the environmental sustainability project of AAFC, the Office of the Auditor
General of Canada identified the development of agri-environmental indicators as a key priority
for the department.
AGRI-ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS PROPOSED FOR DEVELOPMENT
- Crop Yield & Variability
- Input Use Efficiency
- Soil Degradation Risk
- Water Contamination Risk
- Agro-Ecosystem Habitat Availability
- Agro-Ecosystem Biodiversity
- Soil Cover & Management
- Nutrient Balance
- Input Management
- Pesticide Risk
- Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Balance
- Irrigation System Efficiency
Developing Agri-Environmental Indicators for Canada: General Proposal. June 1994. T. McRae
Developing Environmental Indicators for Agriculture:
Discussion Paper, June 1993. Rep.#1, T. McRae.
Report on the Consultation Workshop on
Environmental Indicators for Canadian Agriculture (1993,
Aylmer, QC); May 1994. T. McRae et al. [325 KB]
Developing Agri-Environmental Indicators for Canada: General
Proposal. June 1994. T. McRae [52 KB]
Report on the Second National Consultation Workshop on
Agri-environmental Indicators for Canadian Agriculture (Mar.
1995, Fredericton, NB); T. McRae et al.
Risk of Water Contamination: Concepts and Principles.
Mar.,1995. K.B. MacDonald et al.
Indicator of Risk of Water Contamination: Methodological
Development. Rep#6, March 1995. B. MacDonald, H.
Spaling. [1584 KB]
Role and Nature of Environmental Indicators in Canadian
Agricultural Policy Development. Rep.#7 June 1995.
T. McRae et al. [1467 KB]
Resource Management Indicator: Inputs Management Component;
Rep.#8, July 1995 (draft). D. Culver, N. Hillary. [57 KB]
Design and Development of Environmental Indicators with
Reference to Canadian Agriculture. Sept. 1995. T. McRae
et al. [1370 KB]
Description of Indicators and Project Activities and Outputs
to 1998. Rep.#10; Oct. 1995. [272 KB]
Input Use Efficiency Indicator: Use Efficiency for
Fertilizers, Pesticides and Energy. Rep#11, Oct. 1995.
S. Narayanan. [382 KB]
and Development Needs in Monitoring Agroecosystems in Canada.
Oct. 1995. C.A.S. Smith [247 KB]
Agroecosystem Greenhouse Gas Balance Indicator: Carbon
Dioxide Component. Progress Report, Rep.#13. Dec. 1995. W.N.
Smith et al. [506 KB]
Summary of activities in fiscal-year 1995-1996. (April, 1996)
R. Banerjee. [66 kB]
Project work plan for 1996-1997.
Rep.#15 (Oct. 1996)
Soil Degradation Risk Indicator: Soil Salinity Risk
Component; Progress Report. Rep.#16, Nov. 1996. R.G. EIlers, W.D.
Eilers. [312 KB]
of Risk of Water Contamination: Nitrogen Component.
Rep#17, Dec. 1996. K.B. MacDonald, D.B. Gleig. [1241
Farm Resource Management Indicator: Soil Cover and Land
Management Component; Rep#18, Dec. 1996. P. Curran, T.
Huffman, M. McGovern. [635 KB]
of Activities in Fiscal Year 1996-1997. Rep.#19 (April, 1997). R. Banerjee
Agroecosystem Greenhouse Gas Balance Indicator: Nitrous
Oxide Component. Rep. #20. June 1997. C.A. Monteverde
et al. [1628 KB]
Agroecosystem Greenhouse Gas Balance Indicator: Methane
Component. Rep.# 21. June 1997.
S.P. Mathur. [1378 KB]
Degradation Risk Indicator: Organic Carbon Component;
Rep.#22, Sept, 1997. G. Wall et al. [720 KB]
Soil Degradation Risk Indicator: Soil Compaction Component.
Rep. #23. 1997. R.A. McBride et al. [2403 KB]
Risk of Water Contamination: Methodology for the Phosphorus
Component. Report # 24. Feb. 1998. M.A. Bolinder et
al. [79 KB]
of Risk of Soil Degradation: Erosion Component; The Risk of
Soil Erosion in Canada. Rep.#25, Feb. 1998. I.J.
Shelton, G.J. Wall, Eds. [564 KB]
Agroecosystem Biodiversity Indicator: Habitat Component. Rep
#26, March 1998. P. & E. Neave [3811 KB]
Summary of activities in fiscal-year 1997-1998 (July, 1998). Julian Cleary [73 KB]
National Agri-Environmental Health Analysis and Reporting
Program (NAHARP), AAFC.
Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture: Report of
the Agri-Environmental Indicator Project - A Summary. [pdf] T.
McRae, C.A.S. Smith, and L.J. Gregorich (editors), Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) 2000.
Canadian agri-environmental indicators related to land quality:
Integrating census and biophysical data to estimate soil cover,
wind erosion and soil salinity. [pdf] E. Huffman et al.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 81 113–123. 2000.
Land quality indicators: research plan. J. Dumanski, World
Bank, Ottawa, Canada & C. Pieri. Agriculture, Ecosystems &
Environment 81(2):93-102, 2000.
Developing indicators for environmental policy: data-driven and
theory-driven approaches examined by example. D. Niemeijer,
Wageningen Univ., Wageningen, The Netherlands. Env.
Science & Policy 5(2):91-103. 2002
Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture:
Agri-Environmental Indicator Report Series, Report #2. [pdf]
A. Lefebvre, W. Eilers, and B. Chunn (editors), AAFC, 2005.
Importance of information on tillage practices in the modelling
of environmental processes and in the use of environmental
indicators. D.A. Lobb, Univ. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada,
E. Huffman, & D.C. Reicosky. J. Env. Manage.
Evaluating farm performance using agri-environmental indicators:
Recent experiences for nitrogen management in The Netherlands.
J.W.A. Langeveld et al.,Wageningen Univ., Wageningen,
The Netherlands. J. Env. Manage. 82(3):363-376, 2007.
conceptual framework for selecting environmental indicator sets.
D. Niemeijer & R.S. de Groot, Wageningen Univ., Wageningen, The
Netherlands. Ecological Indicators 8(1):14-25. (2008).
Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture:
Agri-Environmental Indicator Report Series, Report #3.
[pdf] Eilers, W., R. MacKay, L. Graham and A. Lefebvre (editors).
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