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OSCIA Programs Report

Angela Straathof

Provided by: Angela Straathof, Program Director

Angela is the Programs Director for OSCIA and has been with the organization since October 2018. Angela has her PhD in soil chemistry and biology from the Department of Soil Quality at Wageningen in the Netherlands, ranked as the number one agricultural research university in the world. Angela was raised on a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario before studying Land Resource Management at the University of Guelph.

Workshop and Educational Opportunities

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) is a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative to strengthen the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-based products sector and increase its competitiveness, prosperity and sustainability. As part of the Partnership, OSCIA offers three educational workshops to Ontario farmers: the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) and Biosecurity. In 2021, workshops were intermittently offered in-person, depending on the provincial guidelines surrounding in-person events and capacity limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Online delivery modes of the three workshop types are also available and received strong uptake in 2021: the electronic EFP is an online workbook recommended for farmers updating their 3rd or 4th edition EFPs; eGYFP is offered through University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus’s Business Development Centre’s website and administered by OMAFRA; Biosecurity webinars are offered for Livestock (beef, dairy, sheep and goat), Field Crops, Bees and Poultry. All attendees of in-person workshops must abide by provincial guidelines regarding masking and vaccination for the health and safety of all participants and workshop leaders.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership Funding Opportunities

OSCIA delivers Partnership cost-share funding programs to producers and associated other agri-business operations and beekeepers. The fifth intake of the Partnership opened on December 9 2020 and closed on January 6, 2021. Of the 634 applications approved to receive cost-share funding, 81 were in Economic Development, 358 in Environmental Stewardship, and 195 in Protection and Assurance.

The sixth intake of the Partnership opened on November 15 and closed on December 6, 2021. There were 1,108 applications for the producer program, and 3 Other Business Plant Health applications. Of the 1,108 applications received to the producer intake, 159 were to Economic Development, 584 to Environmental Stewardship, and 365 to Protection and Assurance. All applications will be assessed for eligibility and selected to receive a cost-share allocation using a merit-based selection process. This was the final intake of the Partnership program, apart from Targeted Intakes.

OSCIA has been delivering two Targeted Intakes to Support Managed Bee Health under the Partnership. The first Targeted Bee Intake opened September 3, 2019 and closed May 21, 2021. Applications were accepted and processed on a continuous basis and over 350 projects were approved, supporting over 20,000 hives across the province. A second Targeted Bee Intake opened on June 21, 2021 and includes a new higher level of cost-share funding available to commercial beekeepers maintaining 50 or more colonies. Under this most recent intake, 230 projects have been approved for funding.

Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability (LEADS) Funding Opportunities

LEADS is a cost-share funding program within the Partnership. LEADS supports the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) on farms within the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds for farmers who have completed a Farmland Health Check-Up (FHCU). The FHCU is an opportunity for farmers to work with a Certified Crop Advisor or Professional Agronomist to assess risks to on-farm soil health and water quality. The fourth intake of LEADS opened and closed on January 20, 2021.

The fifth intake of LEADS opened on November 2 and closed on November 8, 2021. This was the final intake of the LEADS program. The FHCU is still available for farmers to participate in.

Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program

The Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP) provides funding to agricultural landowners interested in completing habitat creation, enhancement and protection Best Management Practices (BMPs) that support species at risk. SARFIP is funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks through the Species at Risk Stewardship Program. In 2021, OSCIA offered an intake for SARFIP cost-share applications that opened on April 7 and closed on April 13. 131 applications were received and 107 projects were approved for funding. 76 projects were successfully completed and claimed while 31 projects withdrew, namely due to weather conditions and contractor availability limiting the ability to complete the project. Of the BMPs supported by SARFIP, the most subscribed categories were Cross-Fencing for Rotational Grazing, followed by Native Tree Planting, followed by Habitat Structures & Enhancement. 26 of the completed projects elected to participate in SAR Watch, a monitoring program to measure the impact of SARFIP projects on-the-ground for SAR in exchange for additional cost-share funding.

Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Land

Species at Risk Partnerships on Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) is an Environment and Climate Change Canada initiative that is focused on working with farmers to support the recovery of species at risk on agricultural land. SARPAL funds conservation actions currently focused on supporting 12 target Species at Risk. In 2021 a SARPAL intake opened and closed on March 3. 116 applications were received, and 50 projects were approved for funding. 40 projects were successfully completed and claimed while 10 projects withdrew, namely due to weather conditions and contractor availability limiting the ability to complete the project. Of the BMPs supported by SARPAL, the most subscribed categories were Forage Harvest Management (Delayed Haying), followed by Tree and Shrub Planting, followed by Cross Fencing for Rotational Grazing. In a feature new to SARPAL in 2021, over 20 producers with one or multiple SARPAL projects implemented since 2016 were visited by a wildlife biologist in 2021 to survey for the 12 target species and assess the benefits of the BMPs.

Operation Pollinator

Operation Pollinator is a Syngenta program focused on research and partnerships to promote the health and well-being of bees and other pollinators given their essential role in agriculture and nature. Following the successful spring 2018 launch of the first OSCIA-delivered Ontario iteration of Operation Pollinator with Syngenta and with the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC), OSCIA partnered again with Syngenta and with collaboration from both St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre and Pollinator Partnership in 2019 using an Ontario-native seed mix. There were 20 sites (one to two acres each) enrolled in the program, with a total of 17 sites established. In 2021 an additional 3.5 acres were seeded, bringing the total verified acreage with the native mix to approximately 32.5 acres. Maintenance recommendations were provided, and co-operators were encouraged to maintain their site into the future.

On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring

The On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM) program is a four-year, applied research initiative that began in 2019 which supports soil health and water quality research on farms across Ontario. This program is funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year federal-provincial-territorial initiative. In 2021, ONFARM continued monitoring the 25 paired-trial sites where best management practices are implemented in test plots, and soil health and agronomic indicators are measured throughout the season by the Soil Resource Group consultancy. Water quality and quantity measurements continued to be logged from surface water at eight different edge-of-field sites, in partnership with five participating Conservation Authorities. The results of this monitoring will inform a model being developed by Dr Wanhong Yang at the University of Guelph. When in-person events could safely resume, ONFARM cooperators at two sites hosted farmers and program partners to discuss the trials currently underway. Results from this second field season of the program will be presented on February 10, 2022 at the ONFARM Research Forum.