Alberta EFP director Paul Watson recently appeared on Call of the Land, on August 15 and August 16.
Read a full transcript of his interviews below. Click here to listen to the interviews and for more Call of the Land.
The Environmental Farm Plan was launched in Alberta in 2003, and now changes are coming to align our province with the rest of the country. Paul Watson is the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan director and he joins us on the line with the details.
Watson: As of right now Alberta is the only province or territory that does not have a renewal period for their farm plan. And we do need to align with the other provinces because there are some efforts to create a national environmental farm plan, harmonize the content, harmonize some of the delivery and harmonize some of the terms around it. There’s a bit of a push from outside to have a renewal period.
So what does that mean, having a renewal period?
Watson: What that means for the producers in Alberta is, until now, if you’ve done a farm plan, you simply can produce your certificate and get some Growing Forward funding. When the renewal period comes in there will be an expiry date to the farm plan, and you’ll have to renew. The upside of that is we now have a very good online tool, so if you do your farm plan online what that means is if the version changes or the content changes we’ll have all of your content in the online tool and you can go in and make whichever changes you need. The renewal period will be quite a bit easier for producers using the online tool.
How important is it to have this renewal period for producers in our province?
Watson: It is important. We’ve received criticism from industry and from others. They’ve been concerned that, we have a farm plan, you fill out an action plan, and we never know what happens to it. So, do the actions get implemented, what percent of them, what things are being done, what have our producers perceived as important. And we’re starting to have to answer those questions to the outside world.
Watson says this renewal period is part of the process of harmonizing plans across Canada.
Watson: We’ve agreed to harmonize on content across Canada so that when a producer in Canada does an environmental farm plan, to the outside world that means we’ve done a specified amount. It won’t be everything to everyone, but having a farm plan will mean that every producer in Canada meets some level of the standards that are required by international sustainable sourcing requirements.
How different are the farm plans?
Watson: Interestingly, we’ve just done a benchmarking on that, and they’re not very different. By and large, the farm plans are all based off of what they did in Ontario about 25 years ago now, and they haven’t really diverged very much. So we cover all of the same things, and in some ways that’s not surprising. Farming is farming, and the risks associated with farming practices are fairly uniform across the country. There have been some regional differences that are important, and will stay as regional differences. For example, we have a large predator chapter for producers that are near the Rockies, and it’s geared towards bears, wolves, coyotes, things like that. Saskatchewan has a drought mitigation chapter.
What’s the timeline for both the renewal period and this harmonization?
Watson: The renewal we’re planning to roll out for April 1, 2018. And the harmonization will take a little longer than that. We’re in discussions amongst the various delivery agents and governments on how to harmonize the environmental farm plans across Canada. That will not be a very rapid process as there will be some logistic things to look after. My estimate at the moment is that it could take 2 – 4 years.
Agricultural Communications Consultant
Alberta Environmental Farm Plan