By TOM VANDUSEN
Nov 13, 2000 (Eastern Ontario AgriNews)—With the profile of water treatment on the province's farms higher than ever before, the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition has announced its 10-year-old, very popular Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) will wind down next spring.
In recent months, with the Walkerton water fiasco at the forefront of the public mind, the award-winning EFP has been getting a lot of credit for equipping participating farmers to better deal with current environmental issues.
So entrenched has the plan become that other soil and water protection programs launched by conservation authorities and municipalities often require a peer-reviewed EFP in order for their applicants to gain eligibility.
The reason for termination? Lack of money, said Jack Wilkinson, president of the OFA which, along with Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), AGCare and Ontario Farm Animal Council, lead the coalition and sponsor the EFP.
Wilkinson said late last month the coalition has repeatedly approached both the federal and provincial agriculture ministries with proposals to continue the EFP but have not experienced success in securing the necessary dollars. OFA spokesperson Gary Struthers confirmed Nov. 6 that nothing had changed in the EFP financial picture.
"In order to be responsible to farm families who have taken part in, or plan to take part in the program, notice that funding will soon run out must be provided immediately," Wilkinson said.
To date, over 18,400 farm families have participated in EFP workshops. Despite the announcement, workshops will continue to be scheduled this winter and EFP incentive claims will be honoured on a first-come first-served basis.
However, Wilkinson repeated, the entire program will be terminated when current federal funding is exhausted unless new funds are found. He added that coalition leaders have vowed to continue exploring ways to keep the program going.
Currently, EFP funding is provided through the federal Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund administered by the Ontario Agricultural Adaptation Council.
CFFO president Bob Bedggood said the EFP partnership "achieved things unequalled in any other province... or country, for that matter."
Insisting the job isn't over, AGCare chair Jim Fischer said research has confirmed the voluntary program is having a tremendous influence on the way farm families make decisions regarding management of water, soil, air, and wildlife resources.
"There is much more that can be done," Fischer said. "The potential for the EFP is far greater than what we've accomplished."
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