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This past summer has been an interesting one along the lakeshore. Living and farming in the Ashfield Twp area is particularly interesting each summer due to the influx of tourists that bring their stress and frustrations to the lakeshore for some quality recharge time. Smooth washing waves, romantic sunsets, green fields of crops, quiet countryside and tourist events.
In order to keep them coming some people suggest we need to improve our environmental standards when it comes to water quality on the nearshore area of Lake Huron. For years this has baffled the scientists as to why Lake Huron has an interesting uniqueness about it. Obviously everyone else has answers for a solution to the problem but some will not admit they are a part of the problem. You can imagine who is pointing their finger at you know who. We are each an issue at the end of the day and we each need to do our part.
Recently a letter writer to the local paper publisher (Signal Star Publishing Ltd.) wrote an interesting letter stating "we farmers would have appreciated advice". I find this mind boggling due to various reasons. A few of the reasons were listed in a letter I wrote to the editor of Better Farming Magazine titled "Clarifying the facts about E. coli in Lake Huron". Since then the letter was printed in the Focus Magazine which has a distribution area of Huron County (20,450 copies delivered) - rural and urban areas.
Within the letter I stated "Each month the Huron County Federation of Agriculture lists the dates for the local Environmental Farm Plan sessions. Most annual agriculture meetings in Huron County features someone talking about local initiatives and funding that is available for environmental stewardship programming. Each of the two local conservation authorities has staff that can assist farmers with projects that will be effective in reducing erosion and improving the environmental "footprint" of the property (and quite possibly improve productivity). The local OMAFRA office in Clinton also has staff to direct farmers on where to go or who to speak with if they want to do a project. Funding can be up to 100 per cent of the cost of the project depending on where the farmer is located in Huron County. For a few years now Huron County has a Huron Clean Water Project that provides project funding."
In the letter I sent to Focus Magazine I also referred to an article that a Signal Star reporter printed on July 8 about the funding initiatives for farmers and how we can improve our impact on water quality. So the articles are out there each year.
This past week I spoke with Lois Sinclair, Ontario Soil & Crop, who delivers the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) to Huron County farmers. She stated that since 2005 she has numbered 700 books - the number of farmers who have actually completed the EFP sessions and filled out action plans - not necessarily the number that have participated in the class but not completed the book.
Huron County lead the way under the previous program with over $5.5 million in grants from the EFP and over 1400 projects completed. This does not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars granted from the County each year through the Huron Clean Water Project.
The EFP program has since changed going on an annual basis. Lois stated that the applications for funding under Year 1 of the four years opened on June 22, 2009. She then received a message on August 12, 2009 stating that funding was all used up.
Farmers all across this County are trying and attempting to mitigate their impact on the environment. So it really puzzles me when I read "we farmers would have appreciated advice". A Ministry of Natural Resources staff person told me they are surveying a region of the Lower Maitland watershed and they are finding similar results - a high percentage of the property owners do not know that there are programs and funding available for them - rural and non-rural.
How do we get the messages out that there is funding and assistance available, "we farmers" are spending millions of dollars to try and do our part, and finishing off the message with "we are not finished yet."?
Oh, by the way - the way I look at the numbers, Environmental Farm Plan funding has been cut by over 40%. Does that sound like environment is a concern to the government?

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Comment by Jacqui Laporte on March 15, 2010 at 1:41pm
Lois and I would love any ideas on how to get this message out to more producers, however, perhaps it is a sign of accomplishment, when we still hold EFP workshops and 50% of the participants have never heard of it before. I would prefer to think that they are getting our message now in some way, rather than focussing on why they havent before this time.

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