Agriculture Called Key To Protecting Biodiversity

An international accord to protect the world’s endangered species highlights the need for environmental goods and services programs for farmers, a Canadian farm leader says.

Farmers can do a lot to protect nature if given the tools to do it, said Ron Bonnett, Canadian Federation of Agriculture president.

So producers should not be left out of the discussion on how to save the world’s plants, animals and natural habitat, Bonnett said.

“There can’t be a discussion that excludes the farming community because we have so much to offer. We control so much of the land base and we can make some major steps.”

The CFA leader was commenting on a global convention in Nagoya, Japan which agreed on action to halt the loss of biodiversity throughout the world.

The conference, which wrapped up Oct. 30, set key conservation targets to achieve over the next 10 years.

They include protecting 17 of the world’s land and inland water and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas. At present, less than 13 per cent of land and one per cent of oceans are protected.

Previous goals set by countries to reduce biodiversity losses by 2010 have not been met.

Scientists at the meeting representing nearly 200 countries warned 20 per cent of the world’s vertebrate species risk extinction without urgent intervention.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 per cent of amphibious species are threatened. So are 52 per cent of birds.

Some describe the situ-at ion as the worst mass extinction threat since the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago.

Bonnett said farmers already do a lot to protect wildlife and habitat through environmental farm plans.

He himself has taken advantage of such programs on his Ontario farm to keep livestock out of streams by fencing off watercourses.

Other private on-farm environmental practices include no-till farming, crop rotation, water quality controls and grassland management.

But if society wants producers to do more to protect biodiversity, it should support ecological goods and services programs for agriculture, said Bonnett.

As an example, he cited ALUS (Al ternat ive Land Use Services), which has had several pilot projects in Manitoba and other provinces. The program rewards farmers financially for environmentally friendly practices on their land.

In a statement issued after the Nagoya conference, CFA said agriculture is a leader in biodiversity protection and officials should acknowledge that.

“This leadership needs to be recognized and valued in any discussions about biodiversity,” the statement said. [email protected]

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