“I guess the feds have decided they could spend their money better somewhere else.”
– MICHAEL THIELE, DUC
Manitoba’s 30 grazing clubs could be scrambl ing for an alternate source of funding this spring as the federal government pulls the plug on Greencover Canada.
As the sun sets on the five-year program, up to two-thirds of the money that paid for workshops, speakers, events and venue bookings for the “highly successful” grazing club program will be gone, according to Michael Thiele, a Ducks Unlimited Canada co-ordinator involved with grazing club activities around the province.
“The problem for next year is that Greencover Canada will be pulled out. I guess the feds have decided they could spend their money better somewhere else,” he said at a meeting of the West Souris Grazing Club recently.
“That’s questionable, but has agriculture ever really been a priority for the feds?”
Greencover Canada, a $110 million initiative that was created in 2003 as part of the first Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), was designed to help farmers improve grassland management practices, protect water quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
It will be phased out as the APF’s replacement, Growing Forward, is introduced in April of 2009.
Whether new funding to fill the gap left by the end of Greencover Canada will be found in the new federal-provincial policy framework is still up in the air, as various levels of government continue to hammer out the details of the new five-year program.
Ron Gares, the Saskatchewan-based manager of Greencover Canada, said that because Growing Forward offers more flexibility to the provinces for provisioning funding for specific projects, future support for grazing clubs in Manitoba will largely be up to provincial officials.
The agreements being hammered out between the federal government and the provinces are set to be inked in the coming weeks, he added.
Once that layer of uncertainty is removed, the provinces may choose to announce continued funding for some of the programs previously handled by Greencover Canada.
“Until that is in place we can’t really say what’s going to be in place in a given province,” said Gares.
DUC funding for grazing clubs, at roughly one-third of the program’s $70,000 to $100,000 annual budget, will still be available. However, the economic meltdown in the United States has affected fund-raising for the conservation group, he said, and cash available for next year may be affected.
Grazing clubs were first established by DUC in 2000 with help from the provincial government and the PFRA to organize educational activities aimed at improving profitability and environmental awareness primarily among cattle ranchers.
The total number may shrink next year as Ducks Unlimited International prioritizes its contributions to those in prime pothole country
– areas where waterfowl nesting sites abound – such as Shoal Lake-Minnedosa, Re s t o n -P i p e s t o n e , o r Killarney-Carberry.
Clubs in other less productive waterfowl areas, such as Sprague, The Pas, and the Interlake may see their funding reduced.
In the meantime, events will continue until funding dries up. On March 17 in Brandon, a one-day “Soil Food Web” workshop discussing soil biology will be hosted at the Ag Extension Centre in Brandon.
In the afternoon will be a presentation on how to make “compost tea,” a liquid brew of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that can be sprayed on soil as an multi-species inoculant to boost productivity.
“We’ve been really focused on what grows on the land in terms of plants and animals, but we haven’t really spent a whole lot of time thinking about the soil,” said Thiele.
“In the end, if we spent more time thinking about what’s going on in the soil, we’d be further ahead. We’d make more money, have better soil organic matter, better water infiltration – all these things that are basically free that we can take advantage of and improve.” [email protected]