Farm stewardship group welcomes funding

MFGA chair Larry Wegner says, "the golden rule should be: don't let precipitation run away on you. Hold it and catch it on your land." | File photo

Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association plans real-time web program to help farmers make best use of water

Manitoba grazers are going to be able to boost their water and land management abilities with fresh federal funding for a key program.

The $1.1 million grant will support efforts by the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association to improve farmers’ stewardship of the environment they rely upon. The organization has been developing a web-based program that can provide real-time assessments of soil, surface and groundwater status and flows, as well as forecasts for projected conditions.

“As a producer it is our job to hold the moisture in the soil when it does rain, to make the best use of it,” MFGA chair Larry Wegner said at the funding announcement.

“The golden rule should be: don’t let precipitation run away on you. Hold it and catch it on your land.”

In that approach they have found an ally in Terry Duguid, a Winnipeg member of Parliament and the politician tasked with setting up the new Canada Water Agency.

“Farmers have not received the credit they deserve,” said Duguid at the announcement.

“For our government, the agriculture sector is a key partner in the fight against climate change. We know that Manitoba farmers have long cared for the environment and they have already achieved so much.”

The MFGA is a long-time supporter of environmental preservation actions. The organization sees ground-level management of field conditions as key to successfully improving the sustainability of farming, as opposed to high-blown rhetoric that does little for the farmer, Wegner said.

“We try not to get involved with heavy-duty policies, but more with what people can do to make things better for other producers,” said Wegner.

The organization is hoping to show Canadians how the environment can be preserved and improved at the same time as improving the situation for farmers making a living on the land.

“You can tell (the public) that we can put carbon back into the soil, but that’s just a number until they can see how much water can be infiltrated in an hour on a healthy versus a non-healthy soil,” said Wegner.

He admitted that it is hard to get urban people to see the good work that is being done in farm country.

“People in the cities don’t see what we’re doing because they don’t get exposed to what we’re doing,” said Wegner.

“Producers don’t feel that there is enough communication between what happens in the city and us. We have been doing the right thing for a long time. We just have not been acknowledged.”

Duguid agreed.

“We’ve actually put our money where our mouth is,” said Duguid, referring to the $385 million for agricultural climate change mitigation contained in the last federal budget.

“We can’t expect them to do it for free.”

Duguid said farmer acceptance will be key to making the Canada Water Agency a success because much of the land surrounding and feeding into the country’s water sources is farmer-owned.

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