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New Programs Deliver More Dollars To Fewer Producers

We do have to realize that with a smaller amount of total program funding, larger funding percentages for projects, an increasing number of producers eligible, and focused priorities, the opportunity for funding has decreased.

With the delivery of Growing Forward in 2009, producers saw major changes to Environmental Farm Plans (EFP) programming. Some of the changes involved funding, delivery, and technical support.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) has taken on a major role in delivering EFP and beneficial management practices (BMPs), as well as providing technical support. Under Growing Forward’s predecessor, the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), the program was a tripartite agreement between the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, MAFRI, and the Farm Stewardship Association of Manitoba (FSAM).

It was brand new, and delivered by a third party – the now-defunct FSAM. Under Growing Forward, the province negotiated the program with the federal government. The province now has more control over the program funding, and it is prioritizing the BMPs projects.

FUNDS DELIVERED

Under the APF, five years’ worth of BMPs funding was delivered in just over three years, totalling over $30 million. The number of eligible producers started at zero, and grew to over 5,600. Taking a look at the new Growing Forward programming, there are changes to BMPs funding with two streams now in place. There are some distinct differences in that these BMPs are more targeted to specific priorities the province has regarding environmental concerns.

Under the Environmental Farm Action Program (EFAP) the federal and provincial governments are delivering close to $1.8 million per year over four years, and around $1 million per year for three years under the Manitoba Sustainable Agriculture Practices Program (MSAPP).

With this new funding, there are fewer dollars offered than under the APF, and there are over 5,600 producers in line and anticipating project funding. That being said, the levels of funding for producers’ projects are now higher than under the old program, so that means the funds approved will go further for individual producers.

CARBON OFFSETS

Another change to the programming is the inclusion of carbon offsets. What KAP wanted to see were principles for carbon

trading that would mean the farmer owns the offsets, and the province gets what they pay for based on the percentage of funding for a set period of time. This is what we think will work for farmers into the future.

Under the new programming, the province will be retiring these carbon credits to meet their green commitments. The province has a claim on the carbon credits during a three-or four-year period based on where the funding came from. The one exception is funding for lagoon covers with the province getting 90 per cent of the credits for a period of 10 years. This principle is borrowed from the Alberta model in which private industry paid for 100 per cent of lagoon covers and took all of the carbon credits.

GREEN EXCHANGE

It’s interesting to note that the funding under MSAPP is only available to us because of the carbon offsets available. The fact is, farmers wouldn’t be getting access to this funding if we weren’t able to offer carbon offsets to the province. These offsets will help the province meet its commitment to be “greener” in government practices, while offering producers real value for the carbon offsets we create – the increased percentage of funding for BMPs projects and extra funding under MSAPP.

Another change to EFP programming concerns confidentiality.

In the past, EFP workbook-related information was held by FSAM. Producers have always kept their own workbooks and will continue to do so, but there is information that needs to be held somewhere, such as contact information, when you completed an EFP workshop, and your Environmental Farm Plan Statement of Completion number.

CONFIDENTIALITY PRESERVED

KAP agreed to be the new third-party holder of this information in order to maintain confidentiality. Producers who sign on to EFAP or MSAPP programs should know that approval of a BMPs project is determined by MAFRI based on environmental improvements, and information MAFRI asks for could cause confidentiality concerns. The benefits of possible project funding and confidentiality concerns have to be weighed by the producer.

We do have to realize that with a smaller amount of total program funding, larger funding percentages for projects, an increasing number of producers eligible, and focused priorities, the opportunity for funding has decreased.

With the introduction of Growing Forward, producers were expecting the same EFP programming as in the past – and that’s where some of the frustration and disappointment arises. We are entering into new territory with this program which has more focused priorities. The program is similar to what we’ve seen before, but targeted in a different manner.

Rob Brunel is vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

He farms near Ste. Rose du Lac.

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