July 24, 2003: Dr. Charlotte McCallum has been looking
into voluntary programs designed to protect the environment.
Her latest report, coming out of two years of work for the
Christian Farmers Federation, documents a variety of barriers
that have kept many farmers from participating in these programs.
Her curiosity about farmers ignoring agri-environmental programs
was the result of a survey conducted at four farm shows two
years ago. 537 visitors to the CFFO booth responded to her
questions about participation in agric-environmental programs,
motivation for participating and barriers to participation.
More than half said that they had either never heard about
agri-environmental programs or had heard of them but never
Her survey asked: Why might you decide not to take part in
a voluntary incentive program for environmentally friendly
projects? Their responses:
- Too many conditions might be attached -- 28%.
- Too much time or paperwork -- 26%.
- All in all, it might not be worth it economically --
- Don't like others involved in how I manage my land --
- I have the best environmental stewardship possible --
Through key-informant interviews, focus groups, a stakeholder
meeting and analysis of participation in the Environmental
Farm Plan and Rural Water Quality Programs, McCallum has deepened
her insight into these barriers to participation. Her latest
report concludes that there are two kinds of
barriers: problems in the structural design and delivery of
programs, and the perspectives of farmers themselves.
Problems of design and delivery start with limited funding
by all levels of government. This limits access to programs.
Federal and provincial governments approach program delivery
differently, creating misunderstanding and resentment among
farmers. Federally funded programs, the Environmental Farm
Plan for example, provide equal access for all farmers; provincial
programs, Healthy Futures, for example, are community-based,
rely on local initiatives and require cost-sharing. Participation
in some programs is reduced because an Environmental Farm
Plan is required for eligibility. In addition, neither the
federal nor provincial government is firmly committed to long-term
McCallum found that the personal perspectives of farmers
themselves are barriers to agri-environmental payments. Many
farmers mistrust government and some delivery agents. Farmers
believe that information about their operations could be collected
and used against them. The paperwork and time needed to enroll
in yet another program puts them off. Farmers have an aversion
to the environmental movement and question conservation of
the natural environment; yet, these groups will be stakeholders
in future agri-environmental payments. The arrival of the
Nutrient Management Act has created uncertainty and a decline
in voluntary environmental activity.
McCallum's conclusion? Agri-environmental payments still
have considerable merit but it will take a formidable act
of political will and financial commitment to do it right.
The full report "Identifying Barriers to Participation
in Agri-Environmental Programs in Ontario" by Dr. Charlotte
McCallum is accessible at: http://www.christianfarmers.org/cffo-at-work/Ident_Barriers/Iden_Barriers_Index.htm.
Corner Post can be heard weekly on CFCO Radio, Chatham and
CKNX Radio, Wingham, Ontario. Corner Post is archived on the
website of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario: www.christianfarmers.org.
To be added to the electronic distribution list of Corner
Post, send email to email@example.com
with SUBSCRIBE as the message. To remove your name, send email
with UNSUBSCRIBE as the message.