Political Will Necessary for Water Stewardship
With the provincial election approaching, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is reaching out to provincial candidates on three key issues for farming communities: agri-food sector success, farmland preservation, and water stewardship.
This week’s focus has been on water stewardship.
Ontario agriculture’s future success will rely on optimal use and management of water for food production. This week, CFFO district leaders across the province reached out to candidates and local media to voice concerns about the importance of proper water stewardship.
The CFFO emphasized three key factors concerning water stewardship:
The first is improving productivity for farmers. With current high land values, farmers are focused on productivity. The productivity of farmland and the quality of the food being produced can be improved with good soil health, irrigation, drainage, and retention systems. Managing water effectively means that farmers can consistently produce greater amounts of higher quality food year after year. The CFFO encourages a regulatory environment that promote soil health, irrigation, drainage, and retention initiatives.
Second, we need to manage water extremes in an environment with increasingly erratic weather conditions. Long-term trends showing a changing climate means that seasonal weather will be increasingly unpredictable in Ontario. But even with extremes of flood and draught, farmers still need to produce quality crops and livestock. Research and innovation on the farm will allow farmers to better manage seasonal extremes like these. Proper water management also prevents the release of excess nutrients, like phosphorous, into the environment. The CFFO is asking for government support for research, on-farm trials, and incentives to foster innovation that will prepare farmers to deal with future weather extremes.
Lastly, agricultural use of water is unique and therefore requires a separate policy approach. Comparing water use in agriculture to industrial water use shows clear differences. In agriculture, plants and animals need water at the right time and in the right amount to optimize their growth. Water can also be cycled in agricultural uses. Because agriculture’s use of water is different from the water-use efficiency approach in an industrial setting, a separate policy approach for agriculture is required. The CFFO believes that future legislation on water-taking should prioritize the biological use of water for agriculture.
Water stewardship is an important agricultural issue to bring to running candidates because of its far-reaching influence on our ability to improve farmland productivity, manage water extremes due to erratic weather, and prioritize Ontario’s food security.
Agriculture and agri-food can be a cornerstone of the Ontario economy, but political will is necessary to help it thrive.
Josh Kraemer is Communications Intern for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.