Agriculture in the Great
Lakes Basin Stewardship and Innovation
Table of Contents
- Ontario Producers in the Great Lakes Basin Have
a History of Good Stewardship
- Innovative Producers in the Great Lakes Basin
- Assisting Producers in the Great Lakes Basin to
be Good Stewards and Innovators
- Some of OMAFRAs Great Lakes Basin Partner
Agencies Past, Present and Future
Agriculture is Important in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes Basin provides 20 per cent of the worlds
fresh surface water, and is home to roughly 87 per cent (10.6
million people) of Ontarians and virtually all of Ontarios
In Ontario, one-third of the land in the Great Lakes Basin supports
a thriving agricultural and food industry that produces a diversity
of products including grains and oilseeds, meats, dairy, fruits,
vegetables, food and beverages as well as innovative bio-products
and neutraceuticals. This industry accounts for nearly 25 per
cent of all of Canadas agricultural production, with almost
60,000 Ontario farms providing jobs for 1.4 million people.
Ontarios farmers account for $9.1 billion in annual revenues.3,4,5
Food processing is the third largest manufacturing sector
in Ontario, following transportation and electronics. There are
estimated to be at least 3,500 food processing firms in the province,
generating more than 120,000 jobs and $32.5 billion in annual
Ontario Producers in the Great Lakes Basin Have
a History of Good Stewardship
Since the 1970s, farmers have been reducing the environmental
impacts of farming. This legacy is highlighted in some major farm
environmental stewardship achievements.
- Tillage reduction and no-till results in more crop residue
being left on the land. This increased cover protects the soil,
prevents erosion and runoff, and improves soil carbon and quality.
- Soil erosion control structures (for example, grassed waterways
and diversion inlets) in concert with sub-surface drainage systems
results in reduced surface runoff from cropland; buffer
strips and riparian management; and, separating cropping and pasture
activities from surface waters.
- Crop rotation and cover crops forage-based rotations
provide increased soil protection from erosion and improve the
quality of cropland soils.
- Manure application solid manure adds organic matter and
slow-release nutrients thereby improving soil quality.
- Forestation of fragile lands results in retiring highly
erodible croplands (for example, blow sands and eroded knolls)
to plant trees. This practice helps restore soil quality and protect
surface and ground water.
- Pesticide use 53 per cent reduction in pesticide use
since 1984 under the Food Systems 2002 Program.
Innovative Producers in the Great Lakes Basin
- 34,500 Ontario farmers have participated in an Environmental
Farm Plan (EFP) educational workshop.
- More than 27,300 farmers have continued on with the EFP process
and had their EFP Action Plan peer reviewed and deemed appropriate.
These farmers are eligible to apply for cost share assistance
to implement their plans.
Between April 18, 2005 and March 31, 2008, under the Agricultural
- On-farm Voluntary Environmental Improvement Projects
$58.5 million in federal cost-share funding was paid out in Ontario
through the Federal-Provincial Agricultural Policy Framework (APF).
Funding for the Agricultural Policy Framework is provided by Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). This has resulted in more than
13,700 beneficial management practices (BMPs) and technology projects
identified in farmers EFP Action Plans being implemented
across Ontario. Ontario farmers have contributed over $100 million
(money and in-kind resources) towards implementing these environmental
- The top five BMP project categories that farmers completed through
the federal-provincial Agricultural Policy Frameworks cost
share programs were:
- Improving Cropping Systems 2,700 projects involving
precision farming applications, including improving accuracy
in applying nutrients and pesticides, and modifying equipment
to reduce risks for seeding and post seeding implements for
low disturbance placement of seed and fertilizer.
- Improved Pest Management 1,300 projects involving
adopting practices that improve efficacy of pesticide applications,
reduce the number of applications and improve pest control
effectiveness. They also promote the use of approved biological
and cultural control practices to reduce the volume of pesticides
used and the risks of releasing pesticides into the environment.
- Improved Manure Storage and Handling 1,160 projects
involving increased manure storage to permit timely field
application according to weather, soil and crop conditions,
and improved features to prevent leaks and spills and thus
protecting water quality.
- Water Well Management 1,100 projects involving properly
upgrading existing water wells and properly decommissioning
unused/old water wells to prevent ground water contamination.
- Nutrient Management Planning 1,000 projects involving
development of nutrient management plans, planning and decision
support tools to better use nutrients and manure on farm operations.
Assisting Producers in the Great Lakes Basin to
be Good Stewards and Innovators
Like farmers in the province, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has a long history of supporting
environmental farm management practices. Often this is done through
partnerships with researchers, farm organizations, conservation
groups, other ministries and the federal government. For example
under the $23 million Nutrient Management Financial Assistance Program
(NMFAP) OMAFRA assisted eligible farmers in implementing nutrient
management-related practices and technologies. Similarly the $90
million Healthy Futures for Ontario Agriculture Program focused
on encouraging the agri-food industry to:
- Enhance the safety and quality of Ontario food products
- Capitalize on marketing and export opportunities and
- Improve rural water quality and make efficient use of rural
OMAFRA invested $12 million dollars under this program to encourage
farmers to implement best management practices to safeguard water
quality and quantity in rural Ontario.
Other examples of farm environmental protection programs that OMAFRA
has worked with partners over the past 25 years, especially Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada, include:
- Soil and Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP)
- Green Plan
- National Soil Conservation Program
- Land Stewardship Program.
In addition to supporting agri-environmental protection in Ontario
through funding programs and legislation, OMAFRA is involved in
research, education and training programs. Three recent examples
of research programs include: the Nutrient Management Joint Research
Program (NMJRP), the Environmental Sustainability Research Program and
OMAFRA's Great Lakes Program (OGLP) under the 2007
Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Ecosystem (COA).
OMAFRAs education efforts include developing educational
materials such as Best Management Practices Books and supporting
education and outreach programs (for example, the Canada-Ontario
Environmental Farm Plan).
Recent environmental programming available under the Agricultural
Policy Framework and continuing for 2008-09 under the continuity
year of Growing Forward include:
- Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program/Canada-Ontario Environmental
Farm Plan (EFP). Approximately $16.6 million in cost-share assistance
and support for EFP educational workshops is available to help
Ontario farmers in environmental stewardship. The programs are
delivered through an agreement signed between Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture
(OFA) on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition (OFEC).
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) delivers
the programs on behalf of OFA.
- Canada-Ontario Water Supply Expansion Program (COWSEP)
Approximately $3 million is available in Ontario under three Tiers
to improve the capacity of agricultural producers to deal with
water supply issues. Tier 1, the on-farm infrastructure component,
is available for cost-share for individual producers implementing
projects to address water supply issues. Projects include new
water wells for agricultural purposes, ponds for storing water
and water treatment equipment for agricultural use. Tier 2 is
available for multi-user infrastructure projects involving a large
number of users, providing funding of up to thirty three per cent
of eligible project costs. Tier 3 is available for strategic initiatives
to enhance operational and developmental limitations to agricultural
water. Tier 1 is delivered by OSICA and Tier 2 and 3 are delivered
by the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).
- Greencover Canada Approximately $1 million is available
for farmers in Ontario for financial and technical assistance
- Improve water quality in streams, rivers and lakes
- Adopt sustainable land use practices
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Enhance fish and wildlife habitat
Cost share funding of 50 per cent is available for eligible projects
in five BMP categories, including riparian area management, erosion
control structures (in riparian areas), shelterbelt establishment
and consultative services for grazing management planning and riparian
health assessment. Ten Greencover (GC) demonstration sites were
funded under the APF to promote the adoption of BMPs. GC is delivered
by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association under agreement
with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.
With other organizations sharing common environmental objectives:
- Oak Ridges Moraine Environmental Enhancement Program (ORMEEP)
The Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation provided $1.4 million
to top-up nine of the BMP categories available under the three
APF funded cost share programs. The ORMEEP combined with the federal
funding available, provides up to 90 per cent cost share for eligible
projects. This program is delivered by the OSCIA. A deemed appropriate
EFP Action Plan is required.
- Greenbelt Farm Stewardship Program (GFSP) The Friends
of the Greenbelt Foundation provided $2.4 million to enhance the
level of funding available to producers living in the Greenbelt
in 22 of the 36 BMP categories funded under the APF to a maximum
of 75 per cent. This program has been very well received by farmers
in the Greenbelt and is now fully subscribed, with over 700 environmental
improvement projects completed. This program is delivered by the
OSCIA. A deemed appropriate EFP Action Plan is required.
Some of OMAFRAs Great Lakes Basin Partner
Agencies Past, Present and Future
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition
- Ontario Cattlemens Association
- Ontario Federation of Agriculture
- University of Guelph
- Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
- CropLife Canada
- Conservation Ontario
Lakes Environmental Laboratory
Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem
in the Great Lakes Region
- Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, November
- Statistics Canada 2001 Census of Agriculture, Retrieved 11 April
- Overview of Ontario's Food Processing Industry