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Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary

By Suzanne Armstrong, CFFO Director of Research and Policy

Soil health and water quality issues continue to be high on the government’s agenda. Several years of consultations, working groups and revised drafts have now resulted in two major documents: the recently completed Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan, which addresses phosphorus loss, and the soon-to-be completed Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy.

These same priorities are reflected in the new Federal-Provincial joint agricultural funding program which opened this spring and is intaking project proposals. The new program is called Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and replaces the previous Growing Forward 2. There are three main categories within the CAP funding: Economic Development, Protection and Assurance, and Environmental Stewardship. The Environmental Stewardship stream provides opportunities for producers to receive cost-share funding to help move the needle on water quality and soil health improvements on their farms.

The first intake to apply for the producer stream of funding opened just after Easter weekend on April 3 and will be open until May 8, 2018. Funding will be awarded to projects that most closely align with the government’s key priority areas.

At our most recent meeting of the CFFO Water Stewardship Task Team, Karen Jacobs from OSCIA outlined highlights of the current producer CAP program with emphasis on the Environmental Stewardship stream.

She highlighted first and foremost that in order for producers to benefit from available cost-share funding programs, they need to be prepared to meet the requirements and know when the programs are coming and are open for applications. To keep up to date on programs, she recommended following OSCIA on social media, or checking their website regularly. Another vital piece is to keep an updated Environmental Farm Plan (EFP).

For this first intake, 3rd and 4th edition EFPs will be accepted for applications, but all must be upgraded to the 4th edition to collect cost-share funds. OSCIA continues to run EFP two-day workshops across Ontario, so check for upcoming workshops in your area. There is now an online EFP option. This is not intended as a replacement for the in-person two-day workshop but is an option for producers who want to update their existing EFP.

There is also a special funding program called LEADS (Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability) which is available to farms within the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds. Unlike other CAP funding programs, this program will take project proposals as they come in and will not close until the funding is allocated. For those interested in the LEADS program, a Farmland Health Checkup, done one-on-one with a CCA or professional agronomist, is also required, and it’s offered free of charge as part of the program.

Beyond water and soil health, the CAP program also includes funding for growing farm businesses and improving food safety and traceability, so check on the OSCIA website to see how CAP funding may help you and your farm business.