Warmer, wetter and wilder. That’s the prediction of Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, David Phillips, who spoke recently at the Ontario Potato Conference about what to expect in future weather patterns.
With these trends in mind, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) has formed a new Environment and Climate Change Section to respond to a host of issues. Mike Chromczak has agreed to be chair, entering new territory for both himself and the association.
The asparagus grower from Brownsville, Ontario returned to the farm several years ago, establishing stands in 2011 on what was formerly tobacco ground. He’s now expanded to 55 acres focusing on quality and efficiency with a new packing barn.
“In the last decade of farming, I’ve never seen a normal year,” says Chromczak. “Wet is wet and dry is dry.”
The objective of the new committee is to ensure government environmental programs and policies are realistic, practical, fact-based and balanced. Key projects will be to advocate proactively on issues related to water, nutrients and resource management. As needed, information and data will be provided to key policy makers on the effects of carbon pricing methodology and competitiveness while promoting the beneficial environmental practices of growers to help reduce carbon emissions. Chromczak expects to provide input to environmental and nutrient management programs and policies.
“It’s important that horticulture has a voice at the table,” says Chromczak. “Otherwise we’re collateral damage when decisions are made in Toronto or Ottawa. Growers have always been innovative and efficient in being good stewards of the land. We’re not fighting change, but driving change when it comes to precision agriculture.”
Chromczak will be supported by OFVGA’s senior policy analyst Gordon Stock. To get up to speed, Stock has supplied updates on current Ontario policies.
• Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and carbon market form the backbone of Ontario's strategy to cut greenhouse gas pollution to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. As of January 1, 2018, Ontario became part of the largest carbon market in North America — a linked marketplace with Québec and California.
OFVGA is continuing to monitor and evaluate the impact this initiative has on the fruit and vegetable sector.
• GreenON Agriculture is a new program from the Green Ontario Fund, a non-profit provincial agency mandated to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from buildings and the production of goods. GreenON Agriculture is a merit-based cost-share program that encourages adoption of cleaner technologies and reducing carbon footprint. Farmers with permanent, climate-controlled buildings such as greenhouses are eligible. For more information, go to the program delivery agency, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association at https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/oscia-programs/
• The Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) continues its work in four specific watersheds: Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, Essex Region Conservation Authority, Upper Thames Conservation Authority, Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority.
• Grow Ontario Together (GOT) welcomed the February 2018 release of the Canada-Ontario Action Plan for Lake Erie. The objective is to reduce excess phosphorus loading in Lake Erie to prevent unwanted algal blooms. With spring planting around the corner, farmers can help reduce phosphorus loading by ensuring that nutrients are properly added to soils at the right time from the right source, in the right place and in the right amount.
Some of the 2018 projects include restoring wetlands, planting trees in riparian zones and controlling invasive plant species. For a detailed list, go here: https://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2018/02/local-actions-to-protect-lake-erie.html
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers are members of Grow Ontario Together along with other commodity groups. For details: www.growontariotogether.ca