Increasing Adoption of Agri-Environmental Programmes by Ontario Producers
Agriculture is a critical part of Ontario’s economy and the livelihoods of Ontarians, supplying vital food and fibre. However, the natural resources – land, soil, and water – necessary for a thriving agricultural industry are under threat. The province has set out agri-environmental objectives for the sector to maintain these resources over time. Best management practices can assist in achieving these objectives with examples including cover crops, crop rotation, buffer strips, deadstock disposal, and streamside grazing.
Although agri-environmental programmes are effective in encouraging best management practices to achieve environmental outcomes, even the most widely adopted programmes (such as the Environmental Farm Plan) are only adopted by a subset of farmers. For example, as of 2017, 46% of Ontario farmers had a developed EFP (Government of Canada, 2019).
To understand what factors influence producers’ decisions to participate in agri-environmental programmes in Ontario, over 100 individuals, including both producers and farm-industry experts, were interviewed.
Four Key Findings on the Barriers to Adoption
I. Producers are stretched and need more financial support. Producers face a broad range of economic and social problems: they struggle with rising costs and flat incomes, a lack of labour and high stress, and as a result have limited capacity for environmental stewardship - including adopting better practices and agri-environmental programmes.
II. No two farmers are alike and programmes are not tailored to farmer needs. It is hard to classify farmers on any one dimension - but there is a strong desire to achieve an economic return and conserve the land, so programmes need to be tailored to meet economic and environmental needs of different farmers.
III. Programmes are inaccessible to many farmers. Limited eligibility and restrictive payment structures paired with inflexible timing, complex applications, and lack awareness make programmes difficult to use. A lack of on-farm support and limited total funding mean that farmers do not have the help they need for managing these barriers.
IV. Producers learn most from other producers. Reaching them on the farm and through local community building activities can help overcome scepticism of government bureaucracy.
We developed the Korotu 11 principles as a guide for the development of both the structure and messaging of agri-environmental programmes, in the hope that following these principles will help engage producers.
The Korotu 11: Principles for Improved Agri-Environmental Programme Adoption
Reach Out And Connect
1. Empower and incentivize local farmers to provide learning opportunities and outreach.
2. Use local implementation partners and independent extension agents to reach farmers.
3. Put the farmer first: collaborate and consult with producers during programme design and
Design Farmer Friendly Programmes
4. Offer different streams for different sized farms and sectors (no “one-size-fits-all programmes”).
5. Offer longer programme application windows outside the growing season.
6. Use a fair selection process and avoid first-come-first-served.
Pay Incentives Fairly and Flexibly
7. Structure payment timings to better meet the economic needs of producers (i.e., pay upfront).
8. Reward early adopters with compensation and continued retroactive funding.
9. Pay a fair rate that recognises the producer’s true costs and covers the majority of those costs.
Monitor, Report and Refine
10. Fund and incentivise ongoing monitoring and reporting.
11. Ensure both new and existing programmes include a published gap analysis of the industry, showing where this programme fits into the web of agri-environmental incentives.
This project was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative. For more research examples, and help with your project, please contact info "at" korotu.com
Download the full report and webinar materials below.
The Korotu 11 (Poster)
© Korotu Technology Inc. 2023