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Federal, provincial and territorial Agriculture Ministers meeting in Kananaskis Alberta approved a four point policy agenda which would include testing of an ecological services plan called Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS). Often referred to as the "Farmers Conservation Plan", ALUS was designed by the farm community across Canada. ALUS has been widely recognized as the driving force behind the development of new federal policy, which would pay producers for ecological goods and services from private farmland. Under ALUS, farmers and ranchers would receive incentives to deliver ecological services, to provide benefits like clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife habitat.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) President Bob Friesen said, "this forward- thinking decision supports the initiative already undertaken by Canada's farmers under ALUS, to improve the environment for all Canadians." He added that "ALUS is a win- win situation for producers, rural communities and urban Canadians, who are demanding greater environmental sustainability in their food production".

David Rolfe, President of Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), commended the agriculture Ministers for a decision that will allow vital research required to implement EG&S policy to be conducted under ALUS. Rolfe said "ALUS is the first landscape conservation plan to be designed, developed and delivered by farmers, farm organizations and rural communities across Canada." Rolfe emphasized "at this time, ALUS is a process of discovery, it is imperative to launch the research to test this innovative concept, and make adjustments along the way." ALUS pilot project proposals have been developed in Manitoba, Ontario and PEI, with more research pilots planned elsewhere.

"Delta Waterfowl has worked every step of the way with KAP, CFA and other leaders in the farm community to develop ALUS," said Delta President Rob Olson, "as a research and conservation organization, Delta Waterfowl understands the importance of science- based approaches to ensure any new policies actually deliver environmental, social and economic benefits to Canadians." He said that Delta will continue to work with farmers, governments and universities to help design and deliver research required under ALUS.

Cecilia Olver, Vice President of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said, "ALUS makes good business sense for the farmer and the environment. This decision is important because it puts conservation in the hands of the farmer, and that is critical because no- one is in a better position to design or deliver conservation benefits from farms, than the farmer. Olver suggested, "this decision recognizes the fact that so much more can be achieved for the environment and wildlife by working with farmers rather than against us."

Bill Dobson, President of Alberta- based Wild Rose Agricultural Producers lauded the Ministers' decision to proceed with ALUS research pilots. "Canadians have a great opportunity through ALUS to conserve and manage valuable resources like water supply and quality to the benefit of all," said Dobson. "We either have too much or too little water," added Dobson, "and I think ALUS would improve the capacity of the land to mitigate water issues at both ends of the spectrum."

"ALUS will work for farmers and the environment because it solves problems," said Bauke Vogelzang, President of the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture in Ontario. "You can't legislate a healthy environment," said Vogelzang, "laws are only part of the solution." Vogelzang believes that rewarding farmers for producing environmental benefits will improve air and water quality, provide more habitat for fish and wildlife, and have a positive impact on the health of Canadians. ALUS is proposed as a stand- alone environmental program, designed to deliver environmental benefits from farms on an audited fee for service basis. "ALUS isn't an income subsidy," Vogelzang insisted, "it's a service we will provide Canadians," and added, "but it will also help diversify farm incomes and provide a suite of welcome environmental business options for many producers to consider."

Delta Waterfowl Western Policy Vice President Robert Sopuck said that informal discussions with US trade officials indicate ALUS could be acceptable under WTO rules, and pointed to the popularity of environmental services programs in several countries. "The US Farm Bill and the European Union incorporate many features similar to ALUS in their conservation programs," said Sopuck.

Mike Nabuurs, Executive Director of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture said, "we are delighted to see the agriculture Ministers move forward with the decision to test the ALUS proposal. ALUS is a major opportunity to achieve viable solutions for farmers and the environment in PEI, and I look forward to continuing to develop the ALUS concept here."

Source - Delta Waterfowl
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