This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
The Christian Farmers has identified improved water stewardship as one of the key policy areas that is essential in moving the agriculture sector forward. Improved stewardship has triple-bottom line wins for the economy, the environment, and society. This commentary will spend some time talking about the environmental and social benefits the CFFO believes can come about through improved water stewardship.
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.
From an environmental perspective, the complete system of irrigation, drainage, and storage would allow for more timely application of water and nutrients, insuring that each drop of applied water used for agriculture is used for optimal crop growth. The storage system reduces nutrient run-off into our rivers and lakes and allows it to be re-applied in the future. Finally, this three pronged approach increases the resiliency of our crops.
From a social perspective, we see great potential for this system to provide benefits to society at large. In particular, ponds have the potential to provide habitat for endangered species and help serve as providers of habitat for wetland species. However, it is critical that adequate protection around water use for farmers exist under these circumstances. Finding the right balance of rules and regulations on this matter is essential, because if we cannot put the right rules in place, ponds development will not occur.
The CFFO believes that improved water stewardship is the next step for Ontario farmers in moving forward in productivity, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. This is a process that will take time, it will take education around the possibilities for farmers, and changes in the rules that govern our activities using water on our farms.