Terms of Reference - Best Management Practices/Environmental Farm Plan Task Team, established under the Agri-Sustainability Working Group of the Steering Committee for the Project to Commercialize Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy

Table of Contents

  1. Background
  2. Purpose
  3. Scope
  4. Tasks
  5. Members of the BMP/EFP Task Team
  6. Accountability

Background

The Best Management Practices/Environmental Farm Plan Task Team (BMP/EFP Task Team) was formed by the Agri-Sustainability Working Group of the Steering Committee for the Project to Commercialize Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy to identify and guide development of materials related to the Best Management Practices (BMPs) required to achieve sustainable production of agricultural biomass for energy generation.

A Best Management Practice is an environmentally sustainable farm practice, technology or system that integrates the concurrent goals of environmental protection, agricultural productivity, fiscal responsibility, practicality and field-proven efficacy. A BMP can be a preventative measure, a management practice or a remedial measure.

While replacement of coal with agricultural biomass in Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) units is the main focus of the overall project, this Task Team will also consider the needs/involvement of other potential users of agricultural biomass for combustion energy, including steel and cement manufacturing, agricultural operations (e.g. greenhouses, livestock operations) and others seeking an alternative fuel source. In addition, there is acknowledgement of several competing demands for some forms of agricultural biomass, for example for animal bedding, to manufacture bio-products, etc.

Purpose

The purpose of the BMP/EFP Task Team is to identify and provide direction on the development of BMP materials that support the adoption of farm practices which help to ensure agricultural biomass is produced and harvested in an environmentally sustainable manner, including:

  • Identification of the BMPs that should be implemented through Environmental Farm Plans to sustainably grow and harvest annual and perennial purpose-grown agricultural biomass crops and crop residues
  • Identification of the best ways to communicate these BMPs in order to encourage adoption by producers
  • Input to the Agri-Sustainability Working Group's consideration of environmental certification methods

Scope

  • Focus on defining environmentally sustainable practices related to production and harvest of agricultural biomass – including annual and perennial energy crops, short-rotation woody crops, and crop residues
  • Need for BMPs that ensure agricultural biomass meets the definition of "renewable biomass" under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – requirement that soil organic carbon stocks do not decrease over time
  • Investigation of need to address other environmental sustainability factors beyond carbon stocks, e.g. nutrient cycling, soil degradation, biodiversity, invasiveness of biomass crop species
  • Building on knowledge gained across Ontario from researchers, farm-scale demonstration plots, and experience of early adopters
  • Recognition that while significant research on environmental sustainability of agricultural biomass has been completed and is underway, many unanswered questions remain – e.g. energy crop production systems (fertilization, pest management), how to best retain micronutrients, sustainable levels of residue removal. Therefore, BMP development will be an iterative process, with content expected to be relatively general at the outset, followed by refinements over time, as warranted, based on research findings, new certification standards, etc.

Tasks

Timelines for tasks will be based on available resources and the needs of biomass producers and customers.

Tasks could be completed by Task Team members and/or through partnerships with appropriate organizations and/or by consultants as resources permit.

Tasks include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

  • Gather and assess current environmental sustainability recommendations in the EFP, BMP booklets, factsheets, information sheets and other sources as they pertain to agricultural biomass production and harvest
  • Develop recommended list of BMPs to address environmental sustainability of agricultural biomass, with scientific rationale for inclusion
  • Assist OMAFRA Environmental Management Branch staff in developing recommended contents for a new BMP booklet on agricultural biomass sustainability, which should be shared with stakeholder groups (e.g. agricultural and environmental organizations) for input at the appropriate time
  • Determine whether, in the view of the Task Team, the EFP needs to be amended. If so, proposed future amendments will be identified:
    • New worksheets: biomass energy crops; crop residue removal
    • Modifications to existing worksheets if necessary
  • Provide input to the Agri-Sustainability Working Group on sustainability certification methods
  • Identify the requirements of third-party certifiers and develop the training programs necessary to meeting those requirements
  • Undertake a jurisdictional scan or otherwise become aware of:
    • The state of BMP knowledge related to agricultural biomass
    • BMP research needs, with potential to tap into OMAFRA's research funding programs.

Members of the BMP/EFP Task Team

The composition of the Task Team may vary over time based on the issues being examined. Experts may be invited to participate on an ongoing basis as members of the Task Team or contribute on an ad hoc basis.

The core members are:

  • OMAFRA (managers noted in parentheses)
    • Agriculture Development Branch: (Annette Anderson, Dawn Pate) Adam Hayes
    • Environmental Management Branch: Program Coordination, Research & Partnerships: (Nigel Wood) Cindy Bradley-MacMillan,Ted Taylor
    • Environmental Management Branch: Training, Education and Communications: (Mari Komljanec) John Smith
    • Environmental Management Branch: Innovation, Engineering & Program Delivery: (Colleen Fitzgerald-Hubble) Steve Clarke
    • Food Safety & Environmental Policy Branch: (David Cooper) Linda Pim (Chair), Paul Smith
  • Biomass Producer: Jamie Fisher
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture and/or Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition: David Armitage and/or John Fitzgibbon
  • University of Guelph: Plant Agriculture: Bill Deen
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Maxine Kingston

Accountability

  • Regular updates on the Task Team's work will be provided to the Working Group, which in turn will provide updates and advice to the OPG/OMAFRA-led Steering Committee of the Project to Commercialize Agricultural Biomass for Combustion Energy

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 01 December 2010
Last Reviewed: 01 December 2010