GUELPH — The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) is initiating the modernization of Ontario’s Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) program. The governments of Canada and Ontario have committed approximately $4.1 million over five years through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP) to support delivery of Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) activities across the province, including the consultation process for modernizing this important program.
The process will begin this fall with written and verbal consultations to seek agri-food stakeholder feedback on a range of EFP-related topics, including delivery options, the potential for EFP to support certification, and opportunities to align with national and global sustainability assurance initiatives, as well as priorities the industry sees as important.
“Ontario farmers have a lot of pride in the Environmental Farm Plan and a modernization is important to ensure that the program continues to meet the needs of the farm community, agri-food stakeholders and the environment in the years and decades to come,” says OSCIA President Steve Sickle. “The consultations are an important opportunity for stakeholders to let us know what their needs are and what future they envision for EFP.”
OSCIA will be collecting input from stakeholders across the agri-food value chain, including general farm, commodity and agricultural organizations, processors, distributors, food processing and retail organizations, Indigenous and under-represented or marginalized groups, and non-government environmental organizations.
“These consultations will provide valuable insights from stakeholders across the province,” said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “By modernizing Ontario’s Environmental Farm Plan, we can help ensure the program continues to demonstrate the excellent environmental stewardship of Ontario farmers.”
A report summarizing the findings and recommendations on how to modernize EFP to expand its value, broaden its reach and amplify its impact will be released by OSCIA next spring.
“Our government is pleased to continue supporting the work of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association through the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP),” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “The insights delivered through these consultations will provide actionable ideas and perspectives to help create a successful modernization of the EFP, so Ontario agriculture and food workers can achieve their goals more effectively.”
OSCIA will also be leading the update of the content in the Fourth Edition Environmental Farm Plan workbook in preparation for the launch of the new Fifth Edition workbook in 2025. This will include reviewing existing materials, as well as updating content to cover current regulatory requirements and new areas of focus like biodiversity, and climate change.
“Environmental stewardship is a continually evolving field and we will be working closely with subject matter experts from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to help us review content and make determinations on what is relevant, needed and applicable for Ontario farmers and landowners,” adds Barb Caswell, OSCIA’s Director of Operations.
EFP is a voluntary on-farm environmental assessment and improvement program that was first launched in Ontario in 1993 and has since been adopted by all Canadian provinces, the Northwest Territories and Yukon. By completing an EFP, farmers highlight their farm’s environmental strengths, identify areas of environmental concern and set realistic action plans with timetables to improve environmental conditions in up to 23 different areas. Environmental cost-share programs are available to assist in implementing identified improvements.
The EFP modernization process is funded through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year (2023-2028), $3.5-billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency of the agriculture, agri‐food and agri‐based products sector. This includes $1 billion in federal programs and activities and a $2.5 billion commitment that is cost-shared 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially/territorially for programs that are designed and delivered by the provinces and territories.
OSCIA is a unique, not-for -profit grassroots farm organization whose mission is to facilitate responsible economic management of soil, water, air and crops through development and communication of innovative farming practices.