“Farmers should receive annual payments to deliver and maintain environmental services.”
Regional Director, Wild Rose Agricultural Producers
Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP) was pleased to see the Draft Land-Use Framework, and particularly pleased with the strategy to consider cumulative effects input of the development of land, water and air, and the intent to develop a strategy for conservation and stewardship on private and public lands.
We urge the government to adopt the ALUS (Alternate Land Use Services) proposal as part of its conservation and stewardship strategy. WRAP has supported the ALUS concept since it was first introduced. ALUS is a farmer-friendly proposal to maintain and enhance wetlands, fragile lands, natural areas, and riparian areas. There is a mix of public and private ownership on private lands. Air, water, wildlife, and fish belong to the public. Soil, crops, livestock and trees belong to the landowner. Due to this shared nature, environmental services should be cost-shared with producers. Farmers should receive annual payments to deliver and maintain environmental services. Farmers and ranchers are in the best position to deliver environmental goods and services on their land.
ALUS allows farmers to lead the environmental agenda and develop workable solutions in co-operation with their communities, farm organizations, governments, and the Canadian public. ALUS fits with the guiding principles of the Land Use Framework – sustainable, accountable and responsible, supported by a land steward ethic – collaborative, transparent, integrated, knowledge based, responsive, fair, equitable and timely, and respectful of property rights.
WRAP supports the concept of transportation and utility corridors, but has concerns that farmer’s rights and needs must be respected. Recreation corridors (for example walking paths or snowmobile trails) in farming areas can create
conflict if gates are left open, fences cut, or trash left to blow around. Plastic bags, for instance, can be deadly to curious animals that try to eat them and end up choking on them. An open gate can lead to livestock escaping to dangerous locations like highways, cropland or even an exposed pile of grain which all can be deadly for domestic animals because they have no respect for fast-moving vehicles, or the danger of eating too much.
Buying land ahead of time for undetermined projects seems questionable. While the concept may work well for energy companies, it may not serve the interest of farmers and their ability to manage their land and optimize their income. Farmers must be fairly compensated for land, even if the acquisition of a piece of land is in the public interest.
More information is needed on the impact of cluster development, and the implication for farmers in those areas where clusters are situated. WRAP is concerned that clusters of acreages in a farming area can lead to complaints
about normal farm operations that create dust, noise or smells. Homeowners must understand the implications of living near farmland and be prepared to live with those implications.
Farmers understand that machines involved in the raising of crops and livestock are noisy and may need to be operated at any time of the day or night. Farmers understand that livestock smell, and when concentrated in intensive feeding areas, the smell also intensifies. Non-farming neighbors must also understand and accept these consequences of food production.
The framework recognizes the economic importance of Alberta’s land, but it is very important to emphasize the need to keep good agricultural land as farmland. Urban growth right now is threatening some of Alberta’s best land. If it is found to be unfeasible to stop that trend, then topsoil must be conserved and returned to the urban lot or green area in appropriate depths so that is available for gardens, orchards and parks and thereby continue to provide food and habitat for people and animals.
WRAP is pleased to see that agricultural and conservation easements are identified as areas of policy gap and provincial interest, and encourages incentives for donors of productive farmland or agricultural easements.
WRAP is pleased to see that Regional Advisory Councils will be created. It will be important to have effective farmer representation on this Council. Farmers recognize the importance of recreational use, oil and gas and other development, and residential spaces. Important as all of those are, food production trumps them all. Without food, none of the rest matter. Farmers live, and make their living on the land and are therefore impacted by everything that goes on around them. Their concerns must be addressed.