(Sarnia) On Wednesday, March 22, Don Ciparis and Emery Huszka of the National Farmers Union-Ontario brought agricultural concerns to the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes meeting in Sarnia. They noted that farmers are willing and ready to make improvements to their farm operations. For example, some farmers are implementing the 4R fertilizer stewardship and strategic fertilizer best practices and using precision ag technology, crop rotation, and cover crops in grain production while livestock producers have detailed plans for manure, and organic operations choose non-chemical options. Other initiatives such as Environmental Farm Plans, soil and crop plans, and nutrient management regulations are already being implemented by Ontario farmers in many sectors.
“Farmers want real support though,” noted Huszka. “You wouldn’t invite your neighbour to dinner and then present them with a bill. Good programs need adequate funding. The Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative was promising, but it was completely underfunded and initially was oversubscribed in 24 hours. When we speak of sustainable, the funding must take the long view. Good stewards need good tools.”
Huszka and Ciparis presented on additional agriculture best practices including minimum or no-till options that reduce run off threats and assist in capturing available fertilizer through the use of cover crops, building organic soil composition to enhance water retention, and buffer strips, wind breaks, and minimum setbacks to water courses to prevent soil erosion.
“Algae blooms in the Great Lakes are a societal problem; Ontario farmers are only one small piece of the puzzle,” commented Ciparis. “We need everyone at the table participating, without exception, including the provinces and states, as well as other stakeholders that depend on the Great Lakes.”
In his presentation to the IJC, Ciparis cited a 2003 study from Ohio’s EPA, which found that the dumping of dredged materials by the Army Corps of Engineers created its own algae blooms. “I’ve been working on this issue for over ten years, and there are multiple causes. We need to make sure we’re all working on it together,” said Ciparis.