ALUS Canada is setting up a channel to let individuals and organizations financially contribute to projects undertaken by farmers and ranchers.
The New Acre Project was announced earlier this month as ALUS Canada acknowledged a $5-million investment from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation to help the organization expand its reach across the country.
The New Acre Project will be the first of its kind in North America and offers a new way for the private sector and members of the public to invest in alternative land use services, said Bryan Gilvesy, CEO of ALUS and an Ontario cattle producer.
“If you want to have cleaner air, cleaner water and more biodiversity, you can make that happen by sponsoring New Acres,” he said.
A typical New Acre will deliver a number of ecosystem services, such as wildlife and pollinator habitat, carbon sequestration, flood control and drought mitigation, which are services now produced on ALUS Canada projects acres right across the country.
New Acre will enable farmers and ranchers to dedicate additional areas of marginal farmland to the production of these ecosystem services, said Gilvesy in a telephone interview from his farm in Norfolk County, Ont.
“The moniker New Acre tries to identify what farmers and ranchers do is new and it’s additional,” he said. “They’re not taking something that exists and protecting it. They’re producing more.”
Currently, ALUS Canada has 19 projects in six provinces with just over 18,000 enrolled acres. A pilot project began in Quebec this year, another is pending in Nova Scotia and there are expressions of interest for more in Ontario and Alberta. Support for its New Acre Project will help them reach their goal of 25,000 enrolled acres by end of 2017, Gilvesy said.
“The New Acre Project will be the tool that ALUS Canada will use to get those acres funded.”
It’s an idea whose time has come, Gilvesy continued. Increasingly, the public wants to connect to rural areas and agriculture. Water quality is fundamental to downstream urban centres. Consumers want to know food is being produced on well-managed land.
Individuals sponsoring a New Acre will know what they’re getting for their money, he said. “You’re not tying your giving to an organization. You’re tying it to what you know is happening on that farmer’s land.”
They anticipate significant uptake from corporate sponsors, he said.
Corporations will be able to select specific regions of the country if they wish, and select what types of farmers they want to support with their givings, he said. A beer company, as one example, might want to direct its contributions at barley growers, he said.
“That’s the kind of scenario we’re trying to create.”
“We are highly confident that the business community is going to come to this concept,” he added.
They will be meeting with potential sponsors and rolling out more details about the project in the coming months, he said.