The Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) Program is a strong, long-term partnership between farm groups and the federal and provincial governments. It started in 1992 and is continuing today under the 2008–2013 Growing Forward framework. The EFP Program is the primary vehicle for agricultural environmental stewardship in Ontario and enjoys high levels of participation and acceptance. Since 2005, the EFP education and risk assessment tool has been linked to the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program for cost-shared funding for eligible activities identified in EFP Action Plans.
This project was undertaken to study and report on the effectiveness of the EFP and ways to improve the program in terms of:
- Assessing the level of implementation of EFP Action Plans across Ontario;
- Ongoing measurement of progress in implementing EFP Action Plans; and
- Encouraging farmers already participating in EFP to fully implement their EFP Action Plans.
Specifically, the research assessed the development and implementation of EFP Action Plans. The research builds on a previous survey completed in 1999. A future stage of this work will examine ways of encouraging non-participating farmers to complete and implement a peer-reviewed EFP.
This research project used three methods:
- a literature review to determine methods that have successfully encouraged producer participation and to identify strategic improvements worth consideration
- key informant interviews with Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) representatives (n=5) and EFP technical advisors (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs [OMAFRA], n=3) to gain insight into factors that encourage and discourage producers from participating in the EFP Program, as well as their experiences with the Program
- a two-stage survey of 189 EFP participants to collect data on producers‘ experiences with the EFP Program, their perceptions of potential services, and their progress implementing their Action Plans
Conclusion and recommendations
The core activities associated with EFP development are workshops and one-on-one consultation. The typical producer attending an EFP workshop is between the ages of 35 and 55, has about 27 years of farming experience (since the age of 16), and has participated in some form of post-secondary education. A majority of participants are returning producers who had previously attended a 1st or 2nd edition workshop.
Producers mostly commonly decided to attend a workshop to become eligible to apply for cost-share funding and for educational purposes. Producers reported overwhelming satisfaction with the workshops. One of the benefits of the EFP development process is that the Program increases producers‘ understanding of environmental risks and mitigation practices, enables them to identify and examine areas of environmental concern, and raises their awareness of the impact of their operation on the environment. Almost half of the producers who participated in the Program said, because of attending the workshop, they changed their priorities for environmental projects.
Producers implemented or initiated 61% of the activities (9,557 activities for the 189 producers who participated in the survey) identified in their Action Plans. On average, each producer had completed 51 activities and started another three. Most commonly, they had completed or started projects related to Disposal of Farm Wastes (worksheet 6), Soil Management (worksheet 15), and Pest Management (worksheet 20). The producers who participated in the survey plan to complete a total of another 223 activities by the end of 2011.
The value of activities implemented was about $69,600 per farm or just over $13 million for the 189 producers surveyed. Producers devoted an average of $53,900 per farm or just over $10 million (for the producers surveyed) of their own finances to these projects and obtained the remaining $15,600 per farm or $3 million in total (for the producers surveyed) from cost-share programs. The most common source of cost-share funding was OSCIA-delivered programs. These activities took about 130 hours per farm or more than 30,000 hours in total (for the producers surveyed) to implement.
The outcome of the implementation of agri-environmental projects is increased agri-environmental stewardship, which leads to enhanced agri-environmental benefits and reduced agri-environmental risks. This, in turn, results in the enhanced environmental sustainability of soil, water, air, and biodiversity. Over 7 in 10 producers found that their EFP resulted in improvements to soil and water quality.
The following are recommendations for future consideration.
- Recommendation 1 – Continue Successful Education through EFP Program Implementation
- Recommendation 2 – Continue Powerful Linkage of Education and Cost Sharing
- Recommendation 3 – Offer More Services Tailored to Different Needs of Different Types of Producers
- Recommendation 4 – Consider Additional Ways to Encourage Farmers to Implement EFP Action Plans
- Recommendation 5 – Consider Additional Services to Enhance Social Interaction among Farmers regarding EFP implementation
- Recommendation 6 – Conduct Research to Understand Motivation of Farmers not Participating in EFP
- Recommendation 7 – Expand Performance Measures to Show Success of EFP
- Recommendation 8 – Use Action Plan Data to Document the Value of EFP
- Recommendation 9 – Ongoing EFP Performance Measurement
- Recommendation 10 – Revise the EFP Action Plan to Enable Farmers to Identify Changes in Risk Ratings Resulting from Activities Undertaken
Partners: Prairie Research Associates for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition
For the full report, please click on the PDF link below: