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Ontario Background Document

National Soil Conservation Program
(NSCP)

C.J. Acton

March 24, 1988

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


  1. Federal Government Interest in Soil Conservation in Ontario
  2. Current Activities of the Provincial Government
    2.1 Ontario Soil Conservation and Environmental Protection Assistance Program (OSCEPAP)
    2.2 Local Demonstrations Sub-Program
    2.3. Technical Assistance Sub-Program
    2.4 Land Stewardship Program

  3. Current Activities of the Federal Government
    3.1 Technology Assessment Panel, Conservation Information Centre and
          Socio-Economic Evaluation Sub-Program
    3.2 Technology Evaluation and Development Sub-Program
    3.3 Pilot Demonstration Watershed Sub-Program
    3.4 Administration, Monitoring and Public Information Sub-Program

  4. Current Programs under Federal/Provincial Agreement

  5. Expectations of Provincial Government Position with Regard to Implementation of the National Soil Conservation Initiative
    5.1 Awareness
    5.2 Surveys and Monitoring
    5.3 Research
    5.4 Service to Producers
    5.5 Marginal Land

  6. Proposed Federal Government Activities
    6.1 Inventory of Soil Degradation
    6.2 Enhance Soil Survey Program
    6.3 Monitoring Soil Degradation
    6.4 Research
    6.4.1 Soil erosion, compaction, loss of Soil organic matter and yield relationship
    6.4.2 Soil degradation processes
    6.4.3 Development of degradation mitigative measures - integrated
            soil-crop management systems

  7. Expectations of Likely Key or Contentious Issues During Negotiations


 

  1. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT INTEREST IN SOIL CONSERVATION IN ONTARIO

    (To be developed by Dr. H. Hill)

  2. CURRENT ACTIVITIES OF THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT

    Almost exclusively, provincial government programs in soil and water conservation in Ontario are delivered through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. They include the following sub-programs:

    2.1 Ontario Soil Conservation and Environmental Protection Assistance Program
         (OSCEPAP)

    This program provides financial assistance to farmers for soil erosion control structures and devices, as well as structures and systems for protecting water resources from contamination. In the first case, examples of eligible items are grassed waterways, field terraces, channel bank re-shaping, tile outlet protection, seeding or sodding of ditchbanks, tree windbreaks, etc. Protection of highly erodible lands through planting trees, crown vetch, etc., are also eligible practices.

    The environmental protection aspect of the OSCEPAP program provides assistance for manure storage facilities, milkhouse waste disposal systems and pesticide handling facilities. Grants under OSCEPAP cover costs for engineering design and construction supervision, materials and permits.

    2.2 Local Demonstrations Sub-Program.

    This sub-program is intended to promote wider adoption of proven soil conservation practices on farms, primarily related to tillage and cropping. The demonstrations will provide farmers with first hand experience on how to use a practice, its benefits, problems, resulting crop yields and changes in soil structure and erosion. There are two types of demonstrations:

     
    • *** T-2000. This is a cooperative project involving OMAF, University of Guelph and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). Approximately 35 sites have been established on farms of OSCIA members for 3-5 years to demonstrate and monitor the effects of alternative tillage practices and crop rotations. In most cases, the plots are side by side to enhance comparison. Technical assistance is provided to the farmer and data collected and analyzed by field staff.

    • *** Side by Side Trials. These projects are established on approximately 100 farms to demonstrate basic differences in crop response to different practices. They are less labour intensive than T-2000 projects in that less data is collected.

    2.3 Technical Assistance Sub-Program

    This sub-program provides farm level professional conservation advice which deals with soils and crops, soil and water engineering and farm management. Farm cooperators are helped to diagnose soil degradation and erosion problems on their farms, and assisted in selecting future soil conservation practices. Through a system of fact sheets, workshops and meetings, educational programs and information are available to all farmers.

    Fourteen soil conservation advisors are employed on 5 year contracts to assist in delivery of the sub-program under the direction of the Soil Water Management Branch, OMAF.

    2.4 Land Stewardship Program

    This program provides financial incentives for first time adoption of soil conservation farming practices to improve soil resources and reduce environmental contamination from agricultural practices. The mayor component of the program involves financial assistance to farmers for improving soil structure through long-term crop rotations, reforestation and land retirement of fragile lands. Approximately 70% of the grant funds are allocated to this part of the program.

    Grants are also available for erosion control structures, including maintenance of municipal drains, construction of grassed waterways, terrace systems, gully control structures, etc. where costs are in excess of grants payable under OSCEPAP II.

    Assistance for the purchase or rental of conservation equipment qualifies under this program, as does modification of existing equipment for improved residue management. Finally, training in conservation technology also is recognized for financial assistance.

    In addition to the financial incentives discussed above, the Land Stewardship Program also has committed funds for research, education/extension, and program delivery and service. Provincial government programs in soil and water conservation are summarized in Table 1.

     

  3. CURRENT ACTIVITIES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

    Federal government activity in soil and water conservation in Ontario is conducted both through A-base resources as well as by ERDA-type sub-agreements. The extent of activity in Ontario with A-base resources is given in Table 2.

    Table 1. Provincial Government Programs in Soil Conservation in Ontario
    Sub-Program Date Commenced Expected Termination Function Total Planned Expenditure
    ($ Million)
    OSCEPAP II 86/04/01 90/03/31 Financial Assistance 22.0
    Local demonstrations 85/ 90/ Demonstrations 1.75
    Technical Assistance 85/ 90/ Technical Assistance 6.0
    Land Stewardship 87/09/01 90/08/31 Financial Assistance 31.3
    Research 3.3
    Technology Transfer 2.4
    Program Delivery and Service 3.0
     
      Table 2. Federal Activities in Soil Conservation in Ontario with A-Base Resources
    Institution Function P.Y's
    Prof. Support Total
    LRRC
    Ottawa Monitoring, research, awareness 2.5 4.0 6.5
    Guelph Demonstrations, monitoring 0.6 0.3 0.9
    Harrow Research 3.4 2.5 5.9
    Total 6.5 6.8 13.3
     

    The Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP) is a federal-provincial agreement to improve soil and water quality in southwestern Ontario. This agreement is part of Canada's commitment under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with the United States to reduce phosphorus levels in the Lake Erie basin from cropland runoff and also reduce soil erosion and degradation. The program has a commitment of $30 million equally shared between the two levels of government for a five year period.

    There are four federal sub-programs under SWEEP as follows:

    3.1 Technology Assessment Panel (TAP), Conservation Information Centre and  Socio-Economic Evaluation (SEE) Sub-Program

    The purpose of this sub-program is to assess technology, interpret and communicate information and evaluate socio-economic factors related to soil conservation adoption which influence public policies and programs.

    The Technology Assessment Panel (TAP) reviews technical plans and will assess results for sub-programs as the work is concluded. It also assesses current technologies and recommends these for further development or evaluation.

    TAP currently is made up of 14 members representing a cross-section of disciplines drawn from government, universities, agribusiness, private sector and farmers. They meet regularly to comment on work plans from the sub-programs as they are being finalized.

    The Conservation Information Centre, although not yet established, will provide a leadership role in interpreting and communicating information on soil and water conservation and management in Ontario.

    The Socio-Economic Evaluation component is intended to provide insights into the farmer's adoption decision process and the characteristics of effective conservation incentive programs. Several graduate research studies are currently underway at Ontario universities related to this work.

    The Agriculture Development Branch manages all components of this sub-program.

    3.2 Technology Evaluation and Development (TED) Sub-Program

    This sub-program involves development and testing of technologies on commercial farms that will lead to soil conservation and improved water quality through reduction in movement of soil, phosphorus and other chemicals from cropland to water systems. Conservation cropping, conservation tillage and planting and integrated pest management will be evaluated for their impact on both soil quality and crop production. A farm level economics component will develop appropriate economic methodology, collect economic data and conduct economic evaluations of soil and water quality enhancing technologies.

    Currently, six research contracts are underway in this sub-program. They include:

  1. Relationship of soil landscape variability to crop yield, phosphorus delivery and sediment production.
  2. Causes and control of severe erosion on side slopes.
  3. Assessment of on-farm research in conservation farm management practices.
  4. Farm level economic analysis for SWEEP projects.
  5. Choice and management of cover crops for use in row crop dominant systems.
  6. Assessment of soil compaction and structure degradation in lowland clay soils of southwestern Ontario.

Additional research projects will be contracted during the remaining years under this sub-program.

The Harrow Research Station of the Research Branch manages this sub-program.

3.3 Pilot Demonstration Watershed Sub-Program

This sub-program will develop approaches to and evaluate the effectiveness of implementing comprehensive soil and water conservation practices on all farms in a watershed. The effects of these practices in three treated watersheds will be compared to three control watersheds. Both treated and control watersheds will be evaluated for the impacts on water quality, soil quality, crop production and economic costs and returns. The approaches used to implement the program on the watersheds, and the social considerations and consequences, will be documented and evaluated.

Contracts have been awarded for two components of this sub-program. Selection of watersheds, obtaining farm cooperators, project implementation, data collection and evaluation is being conducted by one contractor. A further contract has been established to conduct a soil survey of the watersheds to provide resource information for detailed farm plans, and a baseline for monitoring changes in soil quality brought about by implementing conservation farming practices in the treatment watersheds.

Farm level economic analyses of practices implemented in the watersheds will be conducted by an economics contractor identified in the Technology Evaluation and Development sub-program. Water quantity and water quality monitoring will be undertaken in each treated and control watershed to determine effectiveness of farm practices in reducing pollutants. Monitoring will be carried out jointly by Environment Canada and Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The Ontario Soil Survey Unit of the Land Resource Research Centre manages this sub-program.

3.4  Administration, Monitoring and Public Information Sub-Program

This sub-program is responsible for the overall administrative and public information components of SWEEP. The administration and monitoring aspects ensure coordination of the sub-programs and program objectives are being met. The public information component will help to generate public interest and encourage early and active involvement of the farming community in the program.

This sub-program is carried out jointly with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The federal portion is managed by the Agriculture Development Branch.

Provincial components of the SWEEP program are discussed in section 2 of this document.

 

  1. CURRENT PROGRAMS UNDER FEDERAL/PROVINCIAL AGREEMENT

    Current programs in Ontario under federal/provincial agreement include the Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP). This is a $30 M cost-sharing program which commenced in 1986 and will run until 1992. The provincial sub-programs generally commenced earlier than the federal components. They were of shorter duration initially, but have been extended to be concurrent with the federal ones.

    Details of the sub-programs under this agreement have been discussed earlier.

     

  2. EXPECTATIONS OF PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT POSITION WITH REGARD TO IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NATIONAL SOIL CONSERVATION INITIATIVE
    5.1 Awareness

    I believe that the provincial government would be favourable to increased support for public awareness in soil conservation. This includes awareness by the general public of the severity of soil erosion and constraints on land productivity and water quality. Awareness by producers of conservation soil management also is needed to adapt best management practices to given soil and climatic regions.

    Responsibility for the development of increased public awareness could rest with either provincial or federal agencies, however, program delivery through existing OMAF channels most likely will be suggested. This could include local OMAF newsletters, fact sheets, workshops, meetings, etc. The latter could be Jointly sponsored and federal personnel fully recognized for their contribution.

    Involvement of local organizations in development of public awareness packages needs consideration. Its use and acceptance would be enhanced if they actively played a role in its preparation. The private sector perhaps could provide technical expertise to these organizations in development of brochures, films, slide sets, exhibits, etc. for use at community level meetings and workshops.

    5.2 Surveys and Monitoring

    The provincial government is expected to ask for assistance for the soil survey program under the NSCP. There is a strong conviction that soil surveys need to be expedited in order to provide the required base level of resource information for soil conservation. Many of the counties in southern Ontario in which serious soil degradation problems exist happen to be those in which soil survey information is out of date. Soil conservation advisors in these areas are disadvantaged in that the soil maps are very generalized, often not possessing information on slope and topography, and soil materials are loosely described. Often there is little analytical data available for use in making decisions with regards to erosion susceptibility, and the most suitable tillage and cropping practices. Consequently, the advisor is required to do extensive farm level examination of soils and topography before remedial practices can be suggested. Unfortunately, too often they lack the necessary skills to do the job satisfactorily.

    Little monitoring of soil degradation has been done in Ontario, and the provincial government is likely to look favourably on enhanced activity in this area.

    Monitoring is required for several reasons. To determine the severity of different forms of soil degradation and its impact on agricultural productivity, direct measurement of soil erosion, organic matter loss and soil compaction is required at the field level. This is required on a range of soils and landforms and under different farming systems. This data is essential for the development of predictive methods which forms the basis for regional analysis of soil loss and for allocation of remedial measures.

    A data base of actual measured erosion and its relationship to productivity is very limited in Ontario. Similar data on soil compaction and organic matter loss is even more sketchy.

    5.3 Research

    I believe that additional research in soil conservation would be supported by the province, with their preference being for applied (adaptive) research. Funding for additional research at OMAF-owned research institutions undoubtedly would be strongly supported.

    Increased allocation of funds to universities and p.y's to federal research institutions for soil conservation research also would be accepted favourably.

    Recently there seems to be an indication that OMAF wishes to play a stronger role in the "control" of agricultural research in Ontario. This has been evident in discussions relative to planned research under the federal sub-program (Technology Evaluation and Development) of SWEEP. This apparent position may relate only to research under joint federal/ provincial agreements, and could well apply to additional research proposed in the NSCP.

    The focus for research which would be most favourably supported should involve tillage, planting, cropping practices (rotations), weed control, herbicides, pesticides, etc. associated with conservation farming systems. These are major information gaps that soil conservation advisors have to deal with in their attempts to deliver programs at the farm level.

    5.4 Services to Producers

    Traditionally, OMAF has provided the main delivery mechanism for information flow to the producer. I feel that the provincial government would be sensitive to suggestions for significant adjustments to this practice. The common position during discussions relative to program delivery has been the "one-window" concept, i.e. through county offices. Federal personnel have not been particularly evident in program delivery to producers in Ontario. Federal research efforts, particularly the applied type, have been strongly supported by provincial extension specialists, however, the transfer of this technology except for special cases has been done largely by provincial staff.

    I believe that services to producers from the federal government in the context of financial assistance, grants, etc. would be accepted by the province. However, a likely condition would be that application and delivery took place through provincial offices. They may well accept federal personnel working out of these locations to assist in approval, supervision, delivery, etc., which would enhance coordination and consistency. I am sure, on the other hand, that they would not accept unilateral federal government activity in this area.

    5.5 Marginal Land

    Financial incentives for changing tillage or management practices on lands considered fragile or marginal, I believe, would be strongly supported. It is a common situation where a portion of a farm has a serious soil erosion problem which affects not only that immediate area, but adjacent land as well. There are provisions for assistance to farmers for planting trees, crown vetch, etc. under the Land Stewardship Program, but the feeling is that increased financial assistance is needed in this area.

    The concept of converting marginal farm land from agricultural production into conservation reserves is an accepted practice which was initially put into place in Ontario many years ago. A need to enhance this program seems to exist. In years past, farming systems centered on livestock were commonplace on marginal land. With a decline in the number of farmers engaged in livestock enterprises in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift from a grain-hay farming system to cash-cropping systems on these lands. Increasingly, this has gone to row crop production. Land degradation unfortunately, is the consequence.

    Wetlands and marshes are under continuing pressure for development for agriculture because of land taxation policies. Protection for these environmentally sensitive areas in the form of land reserves would be beneficial in a number of ways, including assisting the financial position of the farmer, improvement in water quality as well as provision of habitat for wildlife and waterfowl.

  3. PROPOSED FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIVITIES
    6.1 Inventory of Soil Degradation

    I believe that the NSCP should possess a common fabric", i.e. some type of activity which is consistent across the whole of Canada. We can use the Canada Land Inventory Program (CLI) as an example. This program was established under federal provincial agreement to prepare a coordinated inventory of the potential of the land resources for agriculture, forestry, wildlife and recreation. In spite of certain shortcomings and inevitable misuse of the information in certain cases, the CLI did raise the awareness of land potential and quality to a very considerable level, and in so doing provided a great deal of visibility to federal government programs. Today, it is used consistently as a standard in land use planning, land taxation, land sales, etc. Do we need something similar in land/soil degradation? Using existing information from soil surveys, land use inventories, land drainage, etc., can we prepare a general inventory of soil degradation including for example potential for, or susceptibility to erosion (wind and water), compaction, organic matter loss, salinization, etc?

    I believe that is was quite obvious that we do not fully comprehend the extent and severity of the soil degradation problem when two authoritative sources differed by a factor of approximately 300% in their estimate of the cost of degradation in Ontario. A coordinated inventory would provide a means of making accurate, relative comparisons of soil degradation within and between provinces or regions which is not presently available. Lastly, a soil degradation inventory would provide an objective basis for targeting soil conservation programs at a national, regional or provincial level. As an example, what regions of Ontario require most assistance in soil conservation? Based on the numbers of requests it would be the southwestern region, but are the problems greatest there? This question, I don't think can yet be answered.

    6.2 Enhance Soil Survey Program

    Assistance for speeding up the soil survey program should be considered under the NSCP. Approximately 14 million acres in southern Ontario are identified to require upgrading to provide a general data base suitable for soil conservation decision-making at the farm level.

    The most feasible way to undertake this inventory upgrade is by contract to the private sector with support to the Soil Survey Unit for coordination, supervision, analyses and interpretation.

    6.3 Monitoring Soil Degradation

    Soil degradation arising from agricultural practices needs to be evaluated in order to determine what forms of degradation (soil erosion, organic matter loss, or compaction) are occurring under different management and on different soils. The impact of soil degradation on crop yields also needs to be determined. A soil degradation monitoring program would establish baseline data on soil quality and a means to assess changes in soil quality under different farming systems.

    Benchmark monitoring sites initially should be established at sites where soil degradation is most severe. This would include farming systems characterized by intensive row cropping on a range of soils of differing texture. The extent and impact of soil erosion, organic matter loss and compaction should be quantified with respect to soil properties and crop yields. Monitoring ultimately should be extended to include comparison of conventional and conservation tillage and cropping systems in close proximity on similar soils.

    The Tillage 2000 sites currently being studied by OMAF and University of Guelph on farms of Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association members could provide a focal point for further efforts to monitor soil degradation. The network of sites would probably need expansion to include a broader range of soil types, tillage and cropping systems. Arrangements also would be required to enable long-term access to the sites, data collection and evaluation. Utilization of A-base resources to extend this study well into the future may be required for the long-term.

    6.4 Research

    There is a need for both fundamental and applied soil conservation oriented research in Ontario which may be conducted under the NSCP. The following three areas of research have been identified in 1987 as priorities by the Ontario Soil, Water and Air Research and Service Committee of OASCC. They all relate to soil conservation research needs.

    6.4.1 Soil erosion, compaction, loss of soil organic matter and yield relationships

    Field scale research is needed to quantify the current extent and severity of soil erosion, compaction and loss of soil organic matter on different soils and farming systems in Ontario, and to characterize the impact of these forms of degradation on surface and subsurface drainage and yield of common field crops.

    Research should be directed initially to those conditions under which soil degradation is most severe. This would include farming systems characterized by intensive row cropping, and soils which represent a range of textures in agricultural capability Classes I, II and III in southwestern Ontario. Attention should be directed initially to quantifying the extent and impact of compaction and loss of soil organic matter. Additional research related to water and wind erosion should be carried out pending the availability of funds. Reduction in yield caused by the different forms of soil degradation should be determined on corn and soybeans.

    6.4.2 Soil degradation processes

    In order to devise strategies to reduce or prevent soil erosion, the processes associated with soil loss need to be clearly understood. Soil erosion rates have been shown to be highest during snow melt and spring rain events. There is a need to develop a methodology for determining soil erodibility during this period of the year and application of this methodology to the major soils of the province.

    Research also needs to be conducted on the processes associated with soil compaction and organic matter loss. There is almost no information available on the sensitivity of Ontario soils to this form of degradation. Although it is most serious on fine textured soils, there are indications that it occurs on medium and course textured soils as well.

    6.4.3 Development of degradation mitigative measures -integrated soil-crop  management systems

    Current research needs to be expanded on the development or adaptation of integrated tillage short-term crop rotation systems for intensive crop production on a range of soils in Ontario. Although it is essential for many crops, tillage has a generally deleterious effect on soil over a period of time. Soil structure is broken down, organic matter is reduced and soil erosion increased. Intensive production of row crops increases this effect most.

    Soil erosion is very evident and prevalent in all of Ontario at the present time. This is due almost totally to the large shift in hectarage from forages, pasture and small grains, to corn and soybeans from 1966 to 1979. If these figures were taken from the mid fifties, the shift would be much greater. This shift in hectarage has taken place generally in counties east of Essex and Kent where sloping or rolling soils are common. There has been no corresponding increase in research in tillage or studying the long-term effects on soil. It is not uncommon to find row crops in Ontario grown up and down hills with as much as 25, slope. This increased erosion has also resulted in increased sediment and nutrient loading and pesticide transfer to streams, rivers and lakes.

    Since forages may not be profitable to grow in a cash crop rotation, various cropping systems which would still be profitable for a farmer to grow should be studied for their effect on soil. Various cover crops should also be evaluated.

    Tillage equipment has changed tremendously. However, there has been little corresponding research in Ontario and, as a result, there is a critical shortage of tillage data at this time to answer farmer questions. Several farmers are trying mulch tillage, ridge planting, and a few try zero tillage to get their own answers for methods of tillage and suitable equipment. Research should be leading these farmers to give them answers.

    The research can be subdivided into four distinct areas:

     
    1. For Southwestern Ontario tillage research is required on heavy clay soils which looks at tillage methods and cropping systems that would promote or maintain soil structure and water infiltration using available crop residues. The use of different cover crops (rye, winter wheat, oats, red clover, sweet clover, annual rye grass, and Austrian winter peas) should be included and evaluated for effectiveness. Problems such as the toxic effect of mature rye to some crops should be known before farmers are attempting to use it as a cover crop. The problem of planting different crops into various residues needs to be studied as well as weed control and application of fertilizer. There is little ground cover at present on these intensively cropped soils during late fall, winter, spring and early summer (6 to 7 months of the year). Wind blown soil, water erosion, poor structure, and poor crop stands are quite evident.
    2. There is a need to evaluate primary tillage methods on sandy soils for row crop production as these soils are very susceptible to wind erosion. There are many methods available but no one can say which is best as they have not been evaluated in Ontario. April, May and June of 1984, 1985 and 1986 gave extensive wind erosion across Ontario.
    3. Tillage and cropping systems must be developed or adapted for the large amount of row crops (corn silage, corn grain, soybeans, white beans) grown in Ontario on sloping soils. In some cases it should be seriously questioned whether some of these soils should be growing row crops. In central and northern United States, contour cropping, contour tillage, mulch tillage and even zero tillage are used extensively in conjunction with terraces and grassed waterways and cover crops on sloping soils. These practices are used very little in Ontario. There has been little tillage research done in Ontario on sloping soils, a very shortsighted and potentially disastrous situation as sloping soils constitute as much as 75% of our agricultural soils.
    4. Tillage and cropping systems must also be developed or adapted for the vegetable crop acreage. Vegetable crops in Ontario are frequently grown continuously on the same land. In some cases two crops are produced from the same area each year. Many crops have very small seeds, requiring the soil to be worked very fine for planting. Because of the high cost of suitable land in urban areas near markets, growers are reluctant to take land out of production to maintain good soil properties.

      The lack of rotation, low use of any cover crops, soil left nearly bare for up to 11 months of the year, has led to soil degradation and very serious problems such as loss of organic matter, poor soil structure, aeration, moisture penetration, moisture retention, crusting, poor seedling emergence and growth, and poor drainage (in spite of extensive tile installations).

      Research is needed to evaluate the effect of cropping systems, various tillage methods and use of cover crops on soil properties and crop production.

      The effects of rotation, use of legumes and other soil improving practices need to be studied and a system developed which is economically acceptable to the grower and will maintain and improve soil physical properties.

       

  4. EXPECTATIONS OF LIBEL ART OR CONTENTIOUS ISSUES DURING NEGOTIATIONS

    Likely the most contentious issue during negotiations will be the matching provincial contribution. The province feels strongly that the Land Stewardship Program announced on September 1, 1987 should be recognized as their contribution to the program. It will be argued that the spirit and intent of the Land Stewardship Program is very much in line with the National Agriculture Strategy, from which the National Soil Conservation Program emerged. In fact, the Ontario government urged the federal government to act with a Joint program in soil and water conservation at the time of planning of the Land Stewardship Program. I feel that the Ontario government should be applauded for their willingness to proceed on their own, and their ability to implement a major program so quickly, rather than have it go unrecognized by the federal government.

    Secondly, the province feels that the allocation of funds to Ontario is inadequate and not equitable. There is much skepticism attached to the two studies related to costs of soil degradation, which was the basis used for allocation of federal funds to the provinces. They will argue strongly that neither report presented significant factual data relative to degradation costs. The fact that loss of soil organic matter was discounted as an insignificant cost to soil degradation in central Canada is a gross oversight. There is a feeling that the deleterious effects of soil compaction in Ontario were seriously underestimated. Although the acreage of land in agricultural production in Ontario is low in comparison to Alberta and Saskatchewan, the per acre input costs for land renovation and production are considerably higher. I believe there is good justification for a larger share of the federal funds to be allocated for Ontario.

    Possibly a contentious issue during negotiations will center on the delivery of federal programs in the province. It must be recognized that OMAF has a well established program delivery system at the farm level, and federal programs which interface directly with the farm operator will need to work within that system. In the past the federal government has not been particularly active in programs at the farm level in Ontario. It may be prudent to downplay the importance of federal program visibility at the outset of the NSCP. It is more important to have our provincial partners comfortable with our presence and appreciative of our support during the first few years of the program, rather than making too large an issue over visibility. I would rather let visibility happen, rather than force it. If the program is worthy, I feel that it will be recognized appropriately.


 

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Created: 09-21-1996
Last revised: Friday, May 06, 2011 04:37:23 PM