Written by Paul Watson, Alberta EFP Director.
According to the Network for Business Sustainability, companies who “improve their impacts on the environment” stand to increase revenues, as “customers will pay up to 10 percent more for products that are green…or ethical.” Alberta farmers and ranchers are becoming increasingly aware of the value that environmental stewardship provides to a sustainable agricultural operation. There are financial benefits that accompany improved environmental stewardship, and without environmental planning, your farm may miss out on these chances to save money or even access new markets for your products. Producers that have invested the time into completing an environmental farm plan have seen their operations with a different perspective. This new knowledge is a powerful way to make your business more environmentally sustainable.
Access to Sustainable Agricultural Funding
An environmental farm plan can provide access to sustainable agriculture funding programs that can benefit their business. One example of this is the Growing Forward 2 program,. While the remaining programs for Growing Forward 2 are limited, several of those in Alberta still taking applications are environmental initiatives. With a certificate of completion of a provincial EFP program, producers are eligible for stewardship funding. Producers can apply for funding to help improve their management of grazing, manure and livestock facilities, crop input and agricultural waste. For example, the Irrigation Efficiency funding program allowed producers to apply for funding for 40 percent of the costs of approved equipment upgrades to a maximum of $5,000, or $15,000 towards a new irrigation system.
Reduce the Costs of Inputs
Improved environmental stewardship also offers the opportunity to reduce the cost of inputs. For example, preventing leaks in fuel tanks is an act of sustainability that helps to save on the cost of wasted fuel. AEFP offers information on the impact and importance of preventing contamination of surface and ground water sources: “A small leak of one drop per second, for example, can release about 900 litres (200 gallons) of gasoline into groundwater over the course of one year.”
Consumers want to know how their food is produced, and the agri-food industry is listening, giving producers a chance to capitalize on this demand. Food purchasers across Canada, including manufacturing companies and major restaurant chains, are more frequently requiring the products they use to be sustainably sourced. Commodity groups are already responding to this market demand, and a completed EFP plays a valuable role here. For example, all members of the Potato Growers of Alberta are required to complete an EFP, a step taken by the organization to meet the stewardship standards of major companies such as McDonald’s and McCain’s. By not making stewardship efforts known to consumers, there are valuable marketing opportunities both from a local and global perspective that Alberta producers could leverage.
Alberta’s agricultural producers have an opportunity to improve their environmental stewardship with the help of an updated EFP; by doing so, they can access new markets and funding opportunities, and save money in the everyday running of their farm or ranch. With sustainability becoming vitally important to many facets of the agriculture industry, an environmental farm plan helps producers to narrow in on specific issues and create an action plan that will improve stewardship and, in turn, reap financial benefits.