Survey Shows Canadian Farmers Are Taking Action to Protect the Environment

Survey Shows Canadian Farmers Are Taking Action to Protect the Environment

Canadian farmers are embracing environmentally friendly practices for growing crops, according to a new survey. The survey shows that most farmers have adopted beneficial management practices (BMPs) to manage their fertilizer and manure use.

Ninety-eight per cent of farmers surveyed said that it was important to manage their farms in a way that protects the environment. According to the survey, most crop farmers in Canada use at least one recommended BMP to manage crop nutrients (fertilizer and manure) in an environmentally responsible manner. Soil testing and minimum tillage (reducing soil disturbance) are the most commonly used BMPs.

"Fertilizer products are essential to Canadian agriculture and the production of wholesome food. Farmers who use beneficial management practices protect the environment by applying fertilizer at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place," said Chris Moran, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada and Chair of the Crop Nutrients Council.

"This study confirms that farmers are good environmental stewards, working hard to manage nutrients for their crops in a responsible manner," agreed Brian Besley, farmer and chair of AGCare (Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment).

While protecting the environment is a priority, many farmers believe there are also net economic benefits from employing BMPs, the survey found. The main reasons cited for using BMPs are to make more efficient use of fertilizer and to improve soil quality.

While farmers believe there are some economic benefits from employing BMPs, one of the main reasons cited for not undertaking a specific BMP was the cost of adoption. Of the farmers who were concerned about the cost of using BMPs, about eight in ten would like some financial assistance from government to improve their environmental stewardship.

"Canadian farmers have been engaging in environmental stewardship for a long time because they believe it is the right thing to do. But they have been bearing the cost of those initiatives mostly alone," said Bob Friesen, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. "It is time for consumers and governments to recognize that agricultural environmental stewardship is a public good that benefits everyone, so the costs must be shared by everyone."

The survey also found that manure is a commonly used source of nutrients on Canadian farms. Six in ten farmers surveyed apply manure to their fields, although only about a third of farmers who primarily grow field crops use manure. About four in ten farmers follow a manure management plan. The main reasons for using a manure management plan are for more efficient use of manure/fertilizer, government mandate, and/or to maximize yields. Only a small percentage receive any government financial incentive to assist them with their manure management planning, however the majority of those using a manure plan support the idea of the government providing financial incentives for manure management planning.

"Manure nutrient management planning is an important practice being increasingly adopted by livestock producers across the country. Not only do producers see an improvement in environmental performance on the farm, a major driver for change, they also recognize that good nutrient management keeps costs down and profits up," said Cedric MacLeod, environmental programs coordinator with the Canadian Pork Council.

Ipsos Reid, a Canadian research company, conducted a telephone survey of 1,000 crop farmers across Canada between Feb. 21 and March 15, 2006, on behalf of the Crop Nutrients Council. The results are considered accurate to within +/- 3.4%, 19 times out of 20.

The purpose of the survey was to gain a better understanding of Canadian farmers' attitudes toward BMP's related to managing crop nutrients, particularly the economic costs and benefits. The Crop Nutrients Council received $69,500 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program to conduct the survey.