One opportunity a producer would like back.
A completed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) won't do much good if it sits on a shelf gathering dust, says EFP technician Torsten Flyng. And one Alberta producer learned that lesson the hard way.
Upon initially completing his EFP, the producer identified an aging well as a potential problem and a high priority action item. Because the years went by and the producer didn't address the issue, the situation snowballed. Flyng says eventually the casing couldn't support the system anymore and the well collapsed, contaminating the producer's water source with silt and mud.
"What could have been mitigated was the stress involved and the last minute concerns," Flyng says, adding that, in this case, the producer was able to access Growing Forward funding which helped alleviate the cost of replacing the well. "There was the possibility that Growing Forward funding didn't work out because he had waited and it was an emergency situation."
Flyng, an EFP technician with West-Central Forage Association which encompasses the counties of Brazeau, Lac Ste. Anne, Parkland, Woodlands and Yellowhead, encourages producers to tap into the potential of their EFP as a strategic planning tool — a living document that can help manage all aspects of their farming operation. He wants to see EFP binders put "back onto the kitchen table, instead of propping it up."
When used as a management tool on a regular basis, producers can grasp the full benefits of their EFP, he says. Even though unforeseen issues will always arise, the EFP helps to identify action items. By keeping that list of priorities close at hand and referring to it on a regular basis, producers will be better equipped to address those items in a timely manner.
"The producer that is able to plan into the future is the one that is able to survive the surprises," Flyng says. "If you have a strategic plan, you know what you want to do going along. The EFP fits perfectly into that, in that those action items feed into what you need to do in the future to be the optimal operation."
Although the EFP can help identify priorities, it's designed so producers control the issues they choose to address. There is no set timeline for producers to update their EFP, but Flyng suggests they look through their binders as often as monthly, striking off the action items they've addressed. Once that initial list of priority projects has been completed, he recommends starting from the beginning, doing a systemic update and adding in any new developments on the farm. This can be done every three to five years, Flyng suggests.
For example, in the case of the producer who didn't replace his well in time, that situation could have been mitigated by keeping his EFP current, he says, adding that the EFP can serve as a constant reminder of priority items.
"The EFP has a purpose and it doesn't serve its purpose if it's just sitting as a book prop or a dust collector," Flyng says. "It's an active, living document that constantly needs to be addressed and updated and changed."
More information on EFPs in Alberta is available at www.albertaefp.com.