Green Plan Research Program
Dr. Bruce MacDonald
Land Resource Div.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
"excerpted from the
1995 GP Research
The quality of water
in the Great Lakes System has been a longstanding concern of both the
government of Canada and the government of the United States of America.
The rights and obligations of both countries were officially outlined
in the spirit of friendship and cooperation in the Boundary Waters Treaty
signed on January 11, 1909. In more recent times the obligation not
to pollute boundary waters while recognizing the rights of each country
in the use of its Great Lakes waters has been reaffirmed in a series
of Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements.
The state of the Great
Lakes is monitored and reported regularly by the
International Joint Commission.
In the Great Lakes
Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) of 1972, emphasis was placed on
nutrients from point sources (municipal sewage treatment facilities)
as a major concern to water quality in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.
In addition, the PLUARG (Pollution
from Land Use Activities Research Group) studied rural pollution
and confirmed agriculture as a non-point source of pollution.
The GLWQA was reviewed
and updated in 1978. In this agreement, target levels were established
for phosphorus loadings to the Great Lakes. A phosphorus management
plan was developed for the lakes which included pollution from rural
non-point sources. SWEEP
(the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program) was established
to carry out research and transfer of technology related to agriculture.
At the time of this agreement a Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA)
was signed respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The purpose of
the COA was to coordinate the activities of federal departments and
provincial ministries in support of the
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
The 1987 protocol (an
updated version of the GLWQA) emphasis was placed on limiting the release
and impact of toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. A
non-point source pollution annex was added to the agreement providing
detailed targets for various pollutants. The focus of activities was
broadened to include an ecosystem approach.
The result of the 1987
protocol was several Great Lakes Action plan (GLAP) initiatives;
specifically, the GLAP research program was a five year $ 5 million
multi-disciplinary research project carried out from 1989 to 1994. It
dealt with agricultural non-point sources of pollution related to pesticides,
manure and nitrogen. In addition, there were federal and provincial
programs designed to promote permanent cover or maintain high residue
ground cover as ways to minimize erosion by water.
The Green Plan agreement
was developed as an equally-shared Canada-Ontario program to encourage
and assist farmers with the implementation of appropriate farm management
practices within the framework of environmentally sustainable agriculture.
Approximately 30% of the federal component of this program has been
directed towards research (to be reported on at this workshop) to address
objectives which were identified at a
Stakeholder conference (Kempenfelt Centre, Barrie, October 1991)
and subsequently refined by research project committees.
Other Green Plan initiatives
deal with technology transfer and demonstration of good innovative practices.
These include the Rural Conservation
Club Program which is coordinated by the Marketing and Industry
Services Branch and has supported more than forty projects developed
and carried out by groups of farmers. The
woodlands, wildlife and wetlands program
has a series of projects designed to promote healthy ecosystems with
a mix of agriculture, forest areas and wetlands. The joint federal-provincial
program to develop booklets which describe
Best Management Practices provide
a standard reference for farmers and the general public about the position
and interactions of agriculture in the rural ecosystem. The farmer led
Environmental Farm Plans are
providing several thousand Ontario farmers with an assessment of their
individual farming operations.
The most recent Canada-Ontario
Agreement (COA) was signed in July 1994. It provides details of
cooperative activities to restore, protect and conserve the Great Lakes
basin ecosystem. This agreement and other Canadian and international
initiatives (listed later) provide an indication of how agricultural
and environmental concerns are continuing to evolve. It is these programs
as well as others yet to come which will shape our thinking and, in
reality, they will provide the context within which the results of our
current Green Plan Research projects will be assessed and interpreted.
It is important for all of us to take note of these developments and
consider not only how well our research projects meet their original
objectives but also how they will contribute to new and developing interests
and concerns. The following few paragraphs provide a brief outline of
recent program and policy developments.
The 1994 COA continues
and expands the emphasis on ecosystems which was clearly enunciated
in the 1987 Protocol. Four areas of focus (streams) are identified;
ecosystems (RAPs - Remedial Action Plan)
prevent and control
These trends represent
a more comprehensive and holistic view of agriculture in the environment
as it interacts with other ecosystem components (aquatic, wetland, and
forest) and the overall societal requirements for quality of life.
Several associated government
programs deserve mention because they will provide part of the framework
for interpreting Green Plan Research. These include National Environment
Strategy for Agriculture and Agri-Food, State of Environment Reporting
and Indicators. The activities related to indicators encompass the Environmental
Indicator Bulletin Series produced by Environment Canada, the Agri-Environmental
Indicators being developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the
OECD (Organization for Environmental Cooperation and Development) indicators
which are currently under development.
The first draft of the
National Environment Strategy for Agriculture and Agri-Food was circulated
in 1990 as the report on Environmental Sustainability. In 1995 this
report is being revised. Four main issue areas are identified;
The results of Green
Plan research projects will contribute most directly to the section
dealing with resource-based issues.
Environment Canada produced the first State of Environment (SOE) Report
in 1986 to correspond with the census. The third SOE report is scheduled for
release after the 1996 census. It will provide a general assessment of sustainable
development within an ecosystem framework. In simple terms this third
SOE report will attempt to answer four key questions related to agriculture
and sustainable development;
what is happening?
(Conditions and trends)
why is it happening
(links between human activities and ecological changes such as environment-economy
why is it important
(what are the implications for ecosystems, human health, economic
and social well-being i.e. are the trends sustainable?)
what are we doing
about it? (Responses at all levels of society).
Clearly, most Green Plan
research projects deal very directly with one or other of these questions.
Indicators are developed
to provide information which is clear and easily understood on the current
trends and state of the natural environment in agriculture, to assist
policy makers in the analysis of the environmental impacts of policy
decisions and market processes, and to monitor the effectiveness of
policies promoting sustainable agriculture. In general, we must first
carry out sound scientific study and documentation of a situation and
then provide a more simplified view for broader distribution. In Canada
there are three specific indicator activities underway. The Environment
Canada Indicator Bulletin Series is designed to monitor and report trends
for the public at large. The Agri-Environmental Indicators under development
by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will monitor trends and provide
a tool to evaluate the effects of policies. The OECD Agri-Environmental
indicators will be used to facilitate inter-national agri-environmental
comparisons for purposes of trade. A cooperative project is underway
with INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), France
to model the movement of potential contaminants in small watersheds.
The resulting workshops and parallel studies will contribute to the
indicator of risk of water contamination.
The Green Plan Research
Projects were developed through a consultative process to address the
needs of the agricultural community in addition over and above the ongoing
A-base research activities. The objectives identified at the outset
remain of primary importance as the research is carried out. However,
we as coordinators of the research would be remiss if we did not pay
close attention to developing programs, concerns and interest and all
of us as an agricultural research community need to continue to reevaluate
how our research activities can be integrated with other research initiatives
to contribute to societies needs. We will continue to share our understanding
of trends with you and count on your input and discussion assist all
of us in achieving the most useful interpretations and applications
of our efforts.
Created: Wednesday, October
09, 1996 11:20:49
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 08:26:17 PM