Alberta producers apply principles of Earth Day with Environmental Farm Plans
April 19, 2006:
As the world celebrates Earth Day, farmers and ranchers across Alberta are developing Environmental Farm Plans (EFPs) as part of their own strategy of environmental sustainability.
Observed every April 22, Earth Day is designed to raise public awareness of current environmental challenges. The EFP program plays a similar educational role on a local level by increasing producer awareness of the environmental strengths and weaknesses of their operations and ways to tackle areas of improvement on their farms and ranches.
"Producers today recognize the role they play in keeping the land resource vital and renewable for generations to come," says Mike Slomp, executive director of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (AEFP) Company, the non-profit organization with a mandate to deliver the EFP program in the province.
"They also realize that practices which promote environmental sustainability can enhance the sustainability of their own farms and ranches."
Earth Day organizers estimate that people in more than 180 countries will be observing the event this year. The goals of the initiative, launched in 1970, are to create positive public awareness of existing and developing environmental solutions, encourage people to take environmental action and develop programs that can be delivered by communities, organizations and individuals.
Since the launch of the EFP program in 2003, more than 6,000 Alberta farmers and ranchers have participated in the voluntary and confidential EFP process. "Through the process, producers learn more about sustainable production practices and how to manage risks," says Slomp.
"The goal of EFP is not only to provide a healthy landscape for the next generation, but also to maintain market access for agricultural products. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of the food they eat and about how that food is produced. Our reputation for producing good food in a healthy environment helps Alberta products compete in world markets."
Many of the environmental issues recognized by Earth Day are also addressed by EFPs, says Slomp. Proper management of riparian areas and natural wetlands, maintaining trees and forage stands to reduce greenhouse emissions, soil and water conservation measures, and maintaining and enhancing native plant communities and habitat for threatened and endangered species, are of concern to urban and rural communities alike.
"By developing EFPs, producers are developing management strategies to reduce farm inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers and fuel and identifying good production practices to address those areas where improvements can be made," says Slomp. "As an agricultural industry we can see, from the profile of events such as Earth Day, that there is a real general interest in environmental issues. The EFP process is not only directly involved in educating farmers, but works to increase general awareness of efforts geared toward protecting the environment and producing safe, high quality food."
More information on the EFP program is available at the AEFP Web site at www.albertaEFP.com or by calling toll-free 1-866-844-2337.
Through the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), the Government of Canada provides major funding to the EFP program in Alberta, with the Government of Alberta providing additional in-kind support services to help the agricultural sector develop and implement Environmental Farm Plans.
Additional support has been provided by the Agriculture and Food Council, through the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Council and various ministries of the Government of Alberta. Contributions have also come from more than 100 local municipalities, businesses and agricultural organizations.