The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is championing improved water stewardship as a key policy area that can move the Ontario agriculture sector forward. If we look at long-term challenges for agriculture, water stewardship is essential to sustainable production of food.
The CFFO believes that there are three game-changing factors that point towards the need for more thought on how farmers use water in Ontario. The first is managing the impacts of more erratic weather patterns and a changing set of climactic conditions. The second is the perception that the direction of government support for farm operations is on improving farm resiliency and long-term self-sufficiency. Finally, the high value of land in Ontario means that farmers need to consider making more improvements in productivity versus purchasing more land.
When it comes to water policy, the CFFO believes it is critical that we draw a distinction between mechanical and biological use of water. In mechanical situations, finding ways to conserve or reduce water use improves efficiency. In biological situations, using either too much water or applying too little water will result negative impacts on growth potential. Therefore, water policy for agriculture needs to focus on ensuring the right amount of water is available at the right time to produce an optimal crop. This is the key to good stewardship of our resources.
The CFFO believes there are three key activities that farmers can engage in that are related to water stewardship. The first is the widely adopted practice of farm drainage that dries the land faster for crop production. The second is extensive use of irrigation to ensure that crops receive the optimal amount of water at the right time. The third is development of retention ponds that capture water for future use and moderates the flow of water into our rivers.
The CFFO believes that triple-bottom line wins can be achieved in agricultural water policy. We believe that solutions for many social and environmental problems can be done in a way that improves the productivity of the business of agriculture in both the near-term and the long-term. We challenge the thinking that environmental issues must be approached with the stick as the greatest weapon. Instead, we believe that farming practices and environmental stewardship can move forward in lock step in many areas.