OFA asked the Honourable Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure the eligibility criteria for financial support under the Resilient Agricultural Landscape Program (RALP) does not exclude farmers who have adopted a beneficial management practice prior to the RALP implementation date. Ontario farmers have been leaders in adopting Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) such as no-till, strip-till, buffer strips, and grassed waterways that provide Ecological Goods and Services (EG&S) to the public such as clean air, clean water, and healthy soils. The success of the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and the popularity of various environmental programming through the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) shows our farmers take stewardship seriously and understand their responsibility to take care of agricultural lands. As part of the new Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (SCAP) federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers agreed to a $250 million cost-shared Resilient Agricultural Landscape Program (RALP) to support EG&S provided by the Canadian agriculture sector.
Cost-share programs from government meant to incentivise the further adoption of BMPs often only apply to a practice that has not been previously implemented by farmers on the land included in their funding application. The result is that early adopters of BMPs are effectively excluded from support and their efforts to improve environmental performance go unrecognized. Furthermore, this funding criteria fails to recognize that BMP implementation may take several years of trial and error before long-term adoption can occur.
RALP presents an excellent opportunity to design a program that recognizes and builds upon the good work and environmental stewardship that has already been accomplished by early adopters of BMPs. Many of the environmental benefits that government and society desire emerge as co-benefits of BMPs implementation, and those co-benefits can be further enhanced by designing RALP to recognize and incentivize further action by those who have already successfully incorporated BMPs into their farming practices.
We requested that the final program design for RALP include options to recognize the stewardship activities of all farmers in Ontario and provide equitable access to cost-shared funding regardless of when those activities began.