Summer EFP workshops speed funding access
July 19, 2006:
There’s a benefit for Alberta farmers and ranchers tackling Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workshops this summer. They can speed up access to funding under the Canada-Alberta Farm Stewardship Program (CAFSP).
An EFP is a free, confidential self-assessment of a farm or ranch’s environmental strengths and weaknesses. Producers who complete an EFP are eligible for up to $30,000 in CAFSP funding for a wide range of on-farm environmental improvements. To be eligible for funding under this program, pre-approval of all improvement projects is required.
To date, Alberta farmers have committed to over 1,470 improvement projects totalling about $18 million, with CAFSP reimbursing about $6.4 million of this total. "The sooner you attend the workshops and complete your plan, the sooner you can apply for CAFSP funding," says Mike Slomp, executive director for the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan Company (AEFP), which delivers the EFP program in the province.
"Remember, this whole process takes time. It takes time to complete the EFP and have it reviewed and deemed appropriate. Then it takes time to plan your project and complete the CAFSP funding application process. It also takes time to organize and complete improvement projects. Many environmental improvements are difficult to make in the wintertime, so the earlier you apply, the more time you have to complete the work prior to winter."
In Alberta, the EFP process begins with a free, half-day local workshop featuring an overview of the EFP workbook and held by a regional workshop facilitator who is usually an area producer. It is then followed by a second workshop in which producers are given the full information needed to develop an EFP. Completed EFPs are then reviewed confidentially by a peer review committee and deemed appropriate under the EFP program or returned for further adjustments. Information on the CAFSP program is also provided at workshops one and two.
"A common question we hear from farmers and ranchers across Alberta is whether AEFP offers summer workshops," says Slomp. "The quick answer to that question is ’Yes.’ We’ll hold them any time throughout the year, in virtually any location, and will even tailor workshops to the needs of the producers requesting them."
Each of the five EFP regions is represented by several workshop facilitators. "Because of this, EFP workshops can be held in virtually any community in the province and still be delivered by someone who understands the unique needs of producers in the area," says Slomp.
And thanks to the regularly updated workshop schedule on the AEFP Web site, located at www.albertaEFP.com, producers can easily find information on workshops taking place in their communities. If there isn’t a workshop already taking place, farmers are encouraged to call their local facilitator and arrange one.
"If you live in an area where there isn’t a lot of EFP activity, you may not see a lot of signs that workshops can be held in your community. But we will go there; all it takes is a phone call and we’ll do our best to arrange a workshop close to you."
Getting a group of people with common interests together is one way to get the most out of an EFP workshop, says Slomp. It’s also a good way to create discussion on environmental stewardship among producers who share the same challenges.
"Whether your group is a livestock industry organization looking for environmental stewardship ideas or a smaller, niche group, if the members feel there’s value in attending an EFP workshop as a group, we say ’go for it.’ Ask your local facilitators about the size of group they can accommodate and they will do their best to develop a workshop that is most appropriate to the challenges your members face."
More information on holding an EFP workshop is only an email or toll-free phone call away. Click on the "workshops" section on the www.albertaEFP.com home page and follow the links to facilitator contact information or phone the AEFP office toll-free at 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 and substantial 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.