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RANCH MUSINGS: Agriculture in B.C. and climate change

BY COLUMNIST DAVID ZIRNHELT
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Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

In March, 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture in B.C. released a report on “what we have heard.”

During an engagement session with producer representatives, farmers and ranchers who were surveyed and those who attended regional workshops have had a say on climate change and environmental programs.

Here is my take on what was heard by government. Participants in regional workshops (125 participants) and a province-wide survey (241 responses) gave assessments on efforts to date by government and farmers of federal and provincial governments on what is called the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP).

Government funding and research and extension activities have been funded by a series of five-year federal-provincial agreements which govern the terms and conditions of what the agreement will fund. The current agreement runs from 2023 to 2028.

Farmers and ranchers have had this opportunity to say what has worked and what they are particularly interested in.

While farmers recognize the importance of reducing their farm’s impact on the environment, fewer than half of the survey respondents felt they had enough knowledge about how to reduce the impact and how to enhance their farm’s resilience against the effect of climate change such as drought, flood and wildfire.

Specifically, what is working well is the role of the regional agrologists with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment Farm Plan Advisors program now run by the Investment Agriculture Foundation (IAF) .

Field days and workshops with other producers gave farmers opportunities to collaborate by sharing knowledge and experience with other farmers and researcher experts.

Also working well, although there is never enough money to meet the demand, the current funding model of government producer cost sharing on programs (Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs).

These upgrades to fencing, water supply and improved pasture and nutrient management where government funding covers much of the cash cost (up to 70 per cent) and the producer puts in supplies machinery and labour, are highly regarded.

This recognizes that there are “public” not just private (farmer) benefits to farmer managed environmental goods and services.

There is a definite feeling that the funding windows are often short and the upfront funding by farmers of improvements were barriers.

The BMP categories of the highest concern were: improving land and water quality and enhancing and protecting biodiversity; and irrigation and water management. Over 60 per cent of the participants thought these were “very important.”

Only about 50 per cent thought the following were very important: Improving management of nutrients (manure and wastewater), reducing impacts on air quality and climate change, agricultural input and waste (residuals).

We, collectively, have a ways to go to get high level adequate buy in to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change, however, those that have stepped up to the plate and had their say will undoubtedly have a positive influence on others in agriculture.



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