by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A program active in Norfolk County that aims to pay farmers for delivering ecological goods and services is spreading to other areas in Ontario.
On Tuesday, the Grey Agricultural Service Centre announced plans to launch an ALUS (Alternative Land use Services) conservation program pilot this summer. The goal for this year is to establish two demonstration farms in each of Bruce and Grey Counties, says Ray Robertson, the centre’s president and executive director. “They will basically set an example as to what people can expect from the program,” says Robertson. “It will also give people ideas that they might have that they can do something on their farm.”
According to its June 5 news release, the centre is working with Delta Waterfowl Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports waterfowl hunting and habitat, and Ontario Nature, a provincial environmental organization, to coordinate the local program. The pilot also involves a partnership advisory committee made up of representation from local farm groups, conservation organizations and local and provincial governments.
Dave Reid, the ALUS provincial transfer facilitator, says other locations include the Municipality of Bayham in Elgin County, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, in eastern Ontario, and the Town of Caledon, in Peel Region.
The Grey Bruce region is the farthest ahead in developing its pilot, he says. Each region must form a partnership advisory committee, hire a project coordinator and select demonstration plots. “Each of these four communities will be sticking their toe in the water in terms of starting out an ALUS program and it’s their intent to do it via demonstration farms,” he explains.
The ALUS program was developed in Manitoba in the early 2000s by the Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province’s general farm policy group, and Delta Waterfowl. A pilot was established in Norfolk County in 2008. Under the program, farmers are paid annual fees to provide services such as wildlife and pollinator habitat and projects that prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.
Programs are also running in Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The program received a major shot in the arm in March when the W. Garfield Weston Foundation announced it was giving $1.46 million to Delta Waterfowl to support the program’s expansion across the country.
Reid says that each of the four new locations has received a challenge grant from the Weston Foundation. “If they raise $100,000, they’ll have a $200,000 budget” over three years, he explains. For three of the locations, including Grey Bruce, $90,000 of those matching funds will be covered by a grant to fund a part-time project coordinator over three years from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. “That means Grey Bruce only has to raise an additional $10,000 to get the full match for the Weston funding,” Reid says.
Grey Bruce ALUS regional coordinator Keith Reid says that ALUS would contribute towards start up costs and then continue annual payments over three years on a per acre basis. He anticipates the annual payments will range between $80 and $100 per acre. As well, funding can also be obtained through other programs such as ones offered by the Ministry of Natural Resources, conservation authorities and Ducks Unlimited or through the environmental farm plan to help with start up costs, he says.
“It’s wide open for a new idea,” he says, explaining funding is not tied to specific types of projects. However, the projects do have to fall within the scope of the program.
The Grey Bruce program is still in the process of identifying the four pilot farms. “There’s some criteria these farms must have for the demonstration,” Robertson explains. “They must be highly visible” and comfortable with being involved in tours, seminars and conferences. The committee will make the final decision on the farms later this month or in July, he says. BF