The new federal-provincial agricultural policy framework will come into effect on April 1st.
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette MP Robert Sopuck says funding from Growing Forward 2 can be used to administer an Alternative Land Use Services (also known as ALUS) program, which would compensate farmers for maintaining wetlands and carrying out other environmental practices that benefit the public.
Prince Edward Island has chosen to use some of the funding its receiving through GF2 to offer a province-wide ALUS program, which is modeled after a pilot offered in Manitoba in the RM of Blanshard several years ago.
The concept has been discussed for almost two decades, but Sopuck says it’s up to the Manitoba government to move forward.
“I don’t want to point fingers, but I know the precedent has been set from Prince Edward Island that non-business risk management funding can be used to fund an ecological goods and services program, and I urge the Manitoba government to get on with it,” he says.
He says as far as he knows, there have not been any major developments regarding a possible ALUS program in the GF2 negotiations between the provincial and federal governments.
“I’m sorry to say there haven’t been any real developments. I think producers need to urge the Manitoba government to access the non-BRM funding, like the province of Prince Edward Island did, to start an ecological goods and services program here,” says Sopuck.
This type of environmental program would be part of the solution to reducing flooding and improving water quality – two major issues for the Manitoba government, notes Sopuck.
“It’s a model for delivering from agricultural land things like flood control, which is on everybody’s mind, biodiversity, aquifer recharge, and so on,” he explains. “We need to start providing incentives to producers. All society would provide the incentives and all society would benefit. The potential is simply enormous.”
The program could be offered for as little as around $30 million, estimates Sopuck.
“If you started with the wetlands side, a province-wide program would be in the $30 million range. That does sound like a lot, but compare that to what was spent on flood mitigation last year. The province is saying around $1.2 billion, and this year, they’re already talking about flooding again,” he says.
Prior to becoming an MP in 2010, Sopuck worked for Delta Waterfowl promoting an ALUS program. He says he remembers being part of the discussion on providing environmental incentives to producers as far back as 1995.