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SWEEP Report #80

Final Report of the Technology Assessment Panel (TAP)
Sub-Program of the Soil & Water Environmental
Enhancement Program (SWEEP)

H. G. Norry, London, Ont.

Executive Summary

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Completed: March, 1993

Executive Summary

The Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP) is a coordinated federal/provincial program to deal with soil conservation and water quality. As part of a Canada/US Agreement to reduce the phosphorous loading to Lake Erie, Canada accepted the goal of reducing its phosphorous loading to the lake by 300 tonnes per year, 200 of which would be from agricultural sources. The reduction of 200 tonnes was the responsibility of SWEEP. The beginning of the SWEEP program was announced in August 1985 and the agreement was signed in May, 1986. Several subprograms were established under SWEEP.

Formation of TAP: One of the sub-programs of SWEEP was the Technology Assessment Panel (TAP) which came into being in August, 1986 when panel members were appointed by the Honourable John Wise, Minister of Agriculture. When no vacancies existed, the Panel was composed of seven farmers, one person from the Ontario Agricultural College, three from agribusiness, three from Agriculture Canada and three from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. An Executive Secretary, Herb Norry, under contract, was provided by Agriculture Canada.

Functions: TAP had several functions, one of which was to provide peer group comments for management, which term includes program managers. Comments were basically about technologies - needs, availability, usefulness, strengths, weaknesses, erroneous perceptions, research needs, research results, etc.

TAP members were a network by themselves. Each of them belonged to many other networks, many of which involved persons very interested in conservation. Ideas that could be of benefit to SWEEP managers were picked up from hither and yon. It would have been a mistake not to pass on to managers, ideas that might improve the SWEEP program. The result was that while TAP concentrated on technologies in their study and searchings, they passed on to managers any and all ideas that might be of benefit to the SWEEP program.

Process: Peer group comments were conveyed to management in a variety of ways. Managers were welcome to attend all TAP meetings and many did. Notes taken at TAP meetings went to managers. Managers had an open invitation to present information to TAP or request comments from TAP. Program managers took part in TAP tours and fact-finding missions. TAP tried to have the panel represented at events sponsored by other programs. Informal conversations when at meetings or on tours and direct telephone calls were found to be excellent means for managers and TAP members to exchange views.

Results: Since TAP is a service program, it is successful only if it aids in the success of the SWEEP program. It is successful if it provides managers, including program managers, with information and viewpoints so that they are able to make better decisions and thereby achieve more success in programs.

How well has TAP succeeded in helping managers? In a period of seven years, it is likely that TAP pleased at times and displeased at times. Hopefully, there were more of the former than the latter. TAP has asked management at times, "Tell us what you want us to do?" The standard answer, reassuring to TAP, has been "Keep on doing what you are doing in the same way."

Since TAP has been successful only if it has helped in the overall success of SWEEP, and since TAP does not want to lay claim to pockets of success, nor repeat results that are better reported elsewhere, we asked our members and close associates to tell us some of the things about SWEEP that they though should be recorded. Some of the points raised by members are about accomplishments of SWEEP and some are about groups or individuals responsible for the accomplishments of SWEEP.

Accomplishments of SWEEP: One TAP member told us that the attitudes of farmers, researchers, extension workers, etc. have been changed by the process of participation in SWEEP programs. This most important accomplishment of SWEEP will not likely show up in SWEEP reports. New partnerships have been formed and individuals have greater respect for other stakeholders.

An increased interest in conservation in farm communities is another benefit noted. Younger farmers, in particular, have great interest in trying new conservation technologies. There is debate as to whether this interest is caused more by perceived conservation benefit or perceived profitability. The cause is immaterial.

Tillage 2000 was a great program that has received much well-deserved favourable comment. Many believe that future use should be made of some of these sites.

Increased cooperation between the many stakeholders involved in SWEEP has been mentioned often and enthusiastically. This could well be one of the most beneficial unplanned side-benefits of SWEEP. Cooperation between farmers, agribusiness, researchers, Ag Canada, OMAF, Environment, Conservation Authorities, etc. has been excellent. Hopefully, such will continue.

On-farm research has been made more prominent and more acceptable as a result of SWEEP. Well conducted research on farms complements the research that is conducted in laboratories and in small plots at research stations and elsewhere.

OMAF appointed 26 Soil Conservation Advisors to assist in the SWEEP Program. These advisors increased their knowledge as they worked on conservation projects. In the government services or elsewhere, these people are a powerful potential for leadership in conservation efforts.

Some of the Soil Conservation Advisors became the Technology Transfer Committee of SWEEP. Their accomplishments through that committee are highly commendable. Some aided in the writing of Best Management Practices publications which puts into writing some of the good extension information previously not available in that form.

The Technology Transfer Committee assembled and merged the suggestions for future research as found in the SWEEP Research Reports. They and TAP have assigned priority ratings to these suggestions which are included in this report.

The Conservation Information Bureau, started as a SWEEP project, has assembled a data bank of conservation information and is in a position to service an increasing number of clients. Staff are knowledgeable about conservation practices, aggressive and cooperative. The Bureau should continue to grow and serve well.

Finally, TAP wants to join many others in paying tribute to Dr. Wally Findlay, a great war horse in the SWEEP Program. TAP members consider Wally as one of their own since he seldom missed a TAP meeting. He has been a wise, forward-pushing steadying influence in the SWEEP program.

Wally would want mention made of many other very dedicated participants in SWEEP who may have achieved less prominence in SWEEP mainly because they had less knowledge and less stature to begin with and a less prominent role to play in the program. Names of researchers, administrators, farmers, etc. leap to mind. It would be folly to start naming them.

Members of TAP, that multi-disciplinary group, with an abundance of varied talents, and plenty of esprit de corps are proud to have been associated with other participants in a successful program.

SWEEP came to an end on March 31st, 1993, when many of those who had been involved with the SWEEP program, plus some who will be involved with some subsequent programs, gathered to exchange views and opinions. A summary of this meeting is in the Appendix.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 08:11:15 PM