Bob Bedggood, past president of the Christian Farmers’ Federation of Ontario, led a workshop for district farmers last Thursday in Emo to discuss the group’s future.
CFFO executive members are touring the province to discuss their vision of the CFFO to educate, as well as get feedback to improve the organization’s farm policy work.
Bedggood and district CFFO members discussed changes in agriculture and concerns regarding agricultural trends, including new technology (cloning, plant molecular farming, etc.) and farming’s declining share of the consumer dollar.
A major part of Bedggood’s talk was on environmental payments. “Should we be paid on an ongoing basis [for doing things right]?” he asked.
Canada only has production payment money per bushel or tonne while many countries in Europe have environmental payments on top of production payments, he noted.
“In Europe, they’ve taken some production [money] away and they look at some of the good things farmers have done,” Bedggood explained. “In Germany, if I have buffering along creeks and streams, I get dollars. If I rotate crops, I get dollars.
“In Switzerland, if I have cows grazing on a mountain, it looks nice for tourists, I get dollars.”
The CFFO thinks society should recognize the wider benefits of on-farm activities for the environment. Re-organizing environmental stewardship is part of their vision.
“This is more than the Kyoto Protocol, it’s good for society,” Bedggood stressed. “We provide a very nice countryside.”
Bedggood said environment payments would help reduce greenhouse gases, tie up carbon in the soil, provide refuge for habitat and biodiversity, create new wetlands, help farmers switch to organic farming or reduce inputs, enhance animal welfare, lead educational farm visits, keep the landscape pleasing, protect heritage sites, and provide wildlife corridors.
The CFFO will take the summaries from all the workshops and present a report on the findings at its annual convention, which takes place in Cambridge this year.