28, 2004: “If we keep taking a piecemeal fragmented
approach to dealing with issues, we will never make any meaningful
progress…,” so wrote a friend in response to my
recent commentary about a wave of government intrusions reinventing
our countryside. I couldn’t agree more.
He referred to a report written by the World Wildlife Fund
- Canada: Advanced Environmental Planning in Canada.
This report is a challenging exploration of opportunities
for farming to improve its stewardship of our environment.
On two issues the message is clear and convincing:
- First, most Canadian agri-environmental programs are
focused on upgrading the environmental risk management of
the existing farming system. Because we’re not opting
for more environmentally friendly farming systems, we are
missing out on the possibility for far greater stewardship
- Second, while Canada--Ontario in particular--has a leading
international reputation for environmental farm planning,
this has not translated into a reputation for agri-environmental
performance. Current programs do not position us as a world
leader for action.
But the main message is profoundly flawed. Not that the concepts
aren’t creative or thought through--it’s just
that farmers and farming, in the grip of a wave of government
intrusion – nutrient management, greenbelt, source water
protection, farmland preservation -- just can’t handle
any more layers of intervention, planning and paper trails.
World Wildlife Fund – Canada proposes an advanced three-tiered
environmental planning program:
- Tier one is a basic farm-level scan that leads to actions
based on existing regulations. It’s similar to the
environmental risk assessment and best management action
plan that is the cornerstone of Ontario’s historic
Environmental Farm Plan.
- Tier two proposes plans for a transition to farming systems
that are more environmental friendly and managed, not by
individual farm entrepreneurs, but by groups or commodity
- Tier three pictures creating market pull for the adoption
of agri-environmental systems, implying the development
of performance assurance arrangements that lead to ecological
While these are wonderfully creative concepts, farming just
can’t handle them. Farming risks being swamped by a
multi-layered, multi-jurisdictional tidal wave of government
initiatives, both piecemeal and fragmented. A second friend
took the trouble to call about that same commentary: “How
much more can we handle? It is demoralizing people. I find
myself at a loss for what to do. We seem to have lost an identity
as an honest people. I’m hearing so many people at the
elevator say, ‘I don’t have to worry – I’ll
be out of farming before I have to do all that.’”
Ontario farmers can’t hear good ideas from the World
Wildlife Fund until we’ve developed a practical and
understandable approach to reinventing our countryside.
Copies of the World Wildlife Fund – Canada report Advanced
Environmental Planning in Canada Thoughts on concepts, Tools
and Implementation are available by emailing Kelly Solakofski
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