7, 2005: Last week, folks from across Canada assembled
in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a National Workshop. Farmers,
farm leaders, rural landowners, municipal councilors, civil
servants, economists, conservationist and environmentalists
gathered to deepen their understanding of the ALUS concept.
ALUS, A…. L…. U…. S…. stands for Alternative
Land Use Services on private land. Others have used the name
“environmental goods and services” or just “ecological
The ALUS concept is gathering steam around the country. A
plan forged by Prince Edward Island detailing Environmental
Services Contracts awaits the signatures of funding agencies.
Pilot projects are under discussion in Alberta, Saskatchewan
and Manitoba. In Ontario, the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture
has developed a pilot that is ready to do a benchmark survey.
Nationally, a Deputy Minister’s Working Group has been
ALUS is about recognizing the stewardship activities of farmers
on their private land. Farmers produce more than food and
fibre. Their privately owned lands are also the source of
much of our clean water, fresh air, biodiversity, abundant
wildlife and attractive landscapes. Their approach to farming
and their commitment to stewardship impact the quantity and
quality of these environmental goods and services.
In the past, governments have used a scattergun approach
to grants and project money for farm families to change farm
practices with a goal of improving ecological services. But
governments have shifted their approach. New rules and regulations
simply demand that farmers on their private land deliver these
environmental goods and services to the rest of us –
for free. Municipalities want well-head protection areas.
The Ministry of Environment wants buffers along every stream.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants every
ditch that holds water to be fish habitat. The Species at
Risk Act demands habitat protection.
Farm families can no longer carry the burden of these responsibilities
on private land. Their commitment to stewardship has not declined
– rather, the cost of stewardship is out of control.
And because most farm commodities are marketed on a price-taker
basis, the option of passing these costs on to consumers through
the price paid for food production does not exist.
It’s time for an ALUS program. ALUS can be the farmer’s
stewardship plan – designed by farmers and delivered
by farmers. ALUS can conserve environmentally sensitive areas
and enhance environmental goods and services on private land
– without regulation on top of regulation.
ALUS is about society paying for environmental goods and
services rather than seizing them by regulation. Farm families
are very willing to increase forest cover by planting trees,
set aside land for marshes, manage grasslands with songbirds
in mind, maintain natural and healthy wildlife habitat, and
keep the air clear and water fresh. Society should pay for
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