Alberta farmers list top five on-farm environmental actions
November 25, 2005:
An ongoing survey of the more than 3,100 Alberta farmers who have completed Environmental Farm Plans (EFPs) shows managing water sources, petroleum, pesticides, soil and household wastewater are the environmental issues that are most on their minds.
An EFP is a voluntary, confidential self-assessment process that helps agricultural producers evaluate and address the environmental risks and strengths of their operations. The survey, conducted as producers complete the EFP workshops, looks at the environmental issues they rate as most important to the sustainability of their farms and ranches.
"This survey provides us with two important types of information," says Therese Tompkins, program director with the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan (AEFP) Company, which administers the program in Alberta. "First, it gives us immediate feedback from program participants, and that’s always valuable input in managing the program. Secondly, it gives us ongoing insight to what farmers across Alberta are doing in the field of environmental sustainability.
"Both are important because it provides us with the information we need to ensure the EFP program remains effective and of real value to Alberta producers."
Water source management is a major priority for the farmers who responded to the survey, says Tompkins. More producers have been testing water for domestic use, taking steps such as increasing the use of backflow prevention devices, for example, which prevent contamination when filling sprayer tanks. They have also been protecting dugouts and reservoirs and aerating.
Storage of petroleum products is another issue on the minds of the producers, who have been taking measures to improve security and fuel dispensing practices, improve stands and protect against spills. "They have also been preparing emergency plans and ensuring access to clean-up equipment," adds Tompkins.
Another priority was the storage and handling of pesticides. "EFP participants clearly want to minimize on farm pesticide storage during non-use seasons. They’ve also been increasing security, improving spill or leak containment in storage areas, improving tank filling practices and reducing the on farm transportation of pesticides."
Soil management is also an issue the producers are tackling, says Tompkins. The participants have been improving their soil management activities by reducing tillage and addressing several wind erosion risks. "They have also been increasing the adoption of organic amendments in the rotation."
Finally, producers have been taking steps to better manage household wastewater. Ensuring good design and construction, improving subsurface distribution of sewage effluent and improving monitoring of disposal areas have been priorities for EFP participants.
AEFP will continue to use this survey to gather feedback from participants and gauge trends in what environmental issues are being dealt with on their farms. "It has proven to be a great tool for evaluating trends and priorities among our program participants," says Tompkins.
AEFP was established in 2002 as an industry-run, non-profit corporation that delivers EFP services to Alberta farmers. Through the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), the Government of Canada provides major funding to EFP program in Alberta, with the Government of Alberta providing additional in-kind support services to help the agricultural sector develop and implement EFPs.
Additional support has been provided by the Agriculture and Food Council, through the Agricultural 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.
More information on AEFP is available by calling the company head office in Edmonton toll free at 1-866-844-2337 or by visiting the Web site at: www.albertaEFP.com