The Prince Edward Island Soil and Crop Improvement Association initiated the concept of Environmental Farm Planning in Atlantic Canada in 1992 through a pilot project to test the Ontario EFP Workbook. This project was carried out until 1993 at which time it was decided that the concept should be introduced throughout the Atlantic Provinces. In 1993, the Atlantic Farmers Council (AFC), a group representing most of the Atlantic Provinces Federations of Agriculture, decided to strike an EFP steering committee and a workbook committee to develop an Atlantic version of the Ontario EFP workbook.
The Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre (ECSWCC) volunteered at that time to lead the technical development of the workbook and to prepare a companion document that illustrated some of the environmental concerns in Canada Atlantic, that is, “Our Green Agenda” published in May 1995. The development of the EFP workbook was carried out through consensus building between the ECSWCC, the AFC Workbook Committee and the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. Professionals and producers reviewed the workbook intensively before its release in October 1995. Soon after the initial release of the workbook, a second version of the workbook was published in early 1996 to address some additional concerns expressed by reviewers. In 2000, the ECSWCC added a section about the management of windbreaks that was requested by the Prince-Edward-Island.
Over the years, producers in New Brunswick have recognized the value of environmental farm planning (EFP) as a producer-driven, proactive, and voluntary process to assess environmental risk and develop an individual action plan. Environmental farm planning has now been included as an integral component of the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF) objective to confirm Canada’s role as a world leader in environmentally responsible agriculture. Extensive consultations with provincial, territorial, and agri-food industry leaders have resulted in an agreement to promote a national approach for environmental farm planning (EFP) which addresses the 14 priority environmental concerns identified within the APF.
The New Environmental Farm Plan Workbook
The Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre was contracted to lead a revision of the former Atlantic EFP Workbook to reflect the priority environmental concerns identified under the APF. Each of the main sections of the workbook was individually reviewed and refined by a Technical Advisory Team composed of agricultural producers, agronomists, engineers, agrienvironmental club coordinators, EFP delivery agents and representatives of environmental organizations from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Since 2005, the new EFP workbook has been available for all agricultural producers in New-Brunswick, Prince-Edward-Island and Newfoundland. The workbook includes more information that help producers to understand the relationship between their farm operations and the environment. It has been structured to be easier to use and additional sections have been added to reflect emerging environmental issues. Although the EFP workbook has changed, the environmental farm planning process remains the same; it still be voluntary, proactive, and reflect the environmental priorities of individual producers. A completed EFP may then act as a base for taking action through the National Farm Stewardship Program.
Environmental Farm Plan Software
The original request made to ECSWCC for developing a computerized version of the Environmental Farm Plan Workbook came up at the two-day EFP Stakeholder workshop held in Charlottetown PEI on November 2002. This workshop brought together federal and provincial government representatives, EFP Coordinators and innovative producers from PEI, NB and NL. The need for developing a computerized version of the EFP also came up during the Atlantic EFP Workbook revision process at all the EFP Technical Advisory Team sessions (Winter 2003), during the testing phase of the paper version (Summer 2004) and through personal contact with producers and coordinators.
The ECSWCC recognized the industry need for a computerized software version of the EFP and that the need varies between potential users. The main users of the computerized version are the agricultural producers who want to have access to an enhanced planning tool that is user friendly and allows the updating of their action plans on an on-going basis. The EFP coordinators expressed the need for a computerized version to facilitate their workshops with producers. The Agri-environmental club coordinators also use the computerized version to facilitate the development and update of producer’s Action Plans and to indicate actions completed. Since the computerized version contains or provides access to a lot more awareness material, it help both groups of coordinators in answering questions raised by producers during the workshop or on-farm visits. It also contains photos of the BMPs being promoted and of some high risk situations.
The development of the software was financed by the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Policy Framework program with the participating provinces PEI, NB and NL. Upon receiving contractual agreement approval from both agencies and after obtaining the License Agreement from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, ECSWCC initiated a public tendering process for the development of the software. A contractual agreement was awarded to JBL Soft Inc., a software development firm from Edmundston, NB.
The EFP software is available at no cost to NB, PEI and NL agricultural producers through their respective EFP delivery agents. The EFP and Agri-environmental Club coordinators in each participating province are the people assisting producers with the computerized version. They are providing training and technical assistance to producers in setting up the software and uploading their site and field maps. The ECSWCC provides technical support and essential training to the EFP Coordinators. It is important that they be properly trained in how to effectively use this software.
The ECSWCC envisions that the computerized version of the EFP will enhance producer participation in provincial EFP programs and BMP implementation.