12, 2003: Slowly, the road to better stewardship
on Ontario farms is shifting to regulations.
Last week, at an information session for farm leaders involved
in the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition, the Ontario Ministry
of Agriculture and Food introduced many of the steps it is
taking to implement the Nutrient Management Act. Staff is
in place for education and training, for advising farmers,
for certifying applicators, for approving nutrient management
plans and for enforcement. OMAF staff demonstrated an upgraded
version of the nutrient management computer program. The transition
from municipal rules to provincial standards officially starts
on September 30.
It has been a long road to provincial regulations. It is
also just a small first step. It will net a small number of
farmers: the larger livestock farms with more than 300 nutrient
units and those that are starting new livestock sites.
This new approach to stewardship - stewardship by provincial
regulation - faces some major challenges.
First, Ontario agriculture is so diverse that every rule
must be both detailed and flexible, to accommodate the many
ways in which we do the business of farming. There are at
least one hundred different kinds of livestock or livestock
groupings, each needing some specific attention in the rules.
The inevitable result? 300 pages of regulations and protocols.
OMAF has promised 120 to 150 accessory fact sheets.
Second, this is not the first or the only layer of the regulated
approach to stewardship. Minimum distance separations already
exist. Source water protection is under discussion. Soon agriculture's
contribution to greenhouse gas emissions will need a management
approach. Each layer adds complexity to farm management.
Third, this issue remains: how to bring the thousands of
small and moderate size farms under the act. The biggest change
on many of these farms will be the paper trail needed to demonstrate
compliance with the act. Compliance with regulations, by its
very nature, takes time and money, even if there is no significant
gain in environmental stewardship.
Fourth, if farmers take only a due diligence approach, hire
professionals to craft nutrient management plans, and delegate
monitoring to certified applicators, what will we gain? Environmental
stewardship is most meaningful when it is both a commitment
and an integral part of day-to-day farm management. Commitment
and regulations are often poles apart.
If I could make just one change in this program... I would
send neither the 300-page regulation/protocol document nor
the fact sheets to any farmer. Rather, to every farmer brought
under the provincial rules I would send a well-trained advisor
with a simple mandate: help farmers write their own nutrient
management plans. In the process train them to think stewardship
and challenge them to environmental
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is Protecting Our Best Farmland?
- August 1, 2003: Food
Trade is Not Widget Trade
- July 28, 2003: Farm
subsides and fairness
- July 24, 2003: Save
the planet--Go ahead, what's
- July 7, 2003: Value
chains versus supply chains
- June 30, 2003: Ontario
farmers reflect on the gifts they have been given
- June 19, 2003: Recipe
- June 9, 2003: The
cheap food fight
- June 3, 2003: Sharing
- MORE> Letter
from Ontario archive
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