Farm groups collaborate to reduce phosphorus, improve water quality in Lake Erie

Agricultural Adaptation Council
April 29, 2019
By Agricultural Adaptation Council
Farm groups collaborate to reduce phosphorus, improve water quality in Lake Erie
Agricultural Adaptation Council
Over the last decade, Lake Erie has been struggling with high phosphorus levels. Farming is one of the leading land uses in the Lake Erie watershed, giving agriculture a critical role to play in improving water quality in the lake.

A collaboration of seven provincial agricultural organizations provided leadership into the development of the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan (CO-LEAP). Ontario Pork, on behalf of the group known as Environmental Collaboration Ontario (Eco-Ag), has been approved for funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) for a project to support CO-LEAP implementation.

"Canadian farmers know the value of protecting our land and water through the use of sustainable practices," said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. "Our government is committed to working with Ontario and the agriculture sector through the Partnership to give farmers the tools and knowledge they need to help improve water quality in the Lake Erie basin."

"This project, which supports our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, is part of our work to improve water quality in the Great Lakes watershed and support the environmental stewardship of our farmers," said Ernie Hardeman, Ontario's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. "We're dedicated to working with farmers to meet our shared goals for improving water quality and environmental stewardship."

Eco-Ag members include Ontario Pork, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, Ontario Sheep Farmers and Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

"The project and forthcoming recommendations will help to establish effective implementation infrastructure for the CO-LEAP, maximizing the environmental, community and farming outcomes identified in the plan," says Michael Keegan, project manager with Eco-Ag. "We want to make sure we are communicating, collaborating and using information to educate and create awareness so that we can improve water quality in Lake Erie."

The project includes: a comprehensive study of successful programs and activities that contribute to reducing phosphorus; building more integrated partnership networks beyond agriculture that include government, academia, and community, environmental and Indigenous groups; developing the industry's information and collaboration infrastructure to support policies and programs that will help the sector enact positive change; and exploring technological tools that can help effectively manage data and support decision-making processes.

For example, integrating several layers of mapping with new research on a watershed supports the development of best management systems suited to the diverse uses, geography and other features in the watershed.

"The expectations of society are changing, and agriculture is continuing to evolve to meet those expectations," he says. "Farmers take their role as environmental stewards seriously and are committed to embracing their responsibility to do their part to help clean up the lake."

According to Keegan, funding from the Partnership is a very important public investment into advancing the work of the collaboration and supporting the acceleration of developing the networks and tools needed to bring Lake Erie back to good health.

This project was funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of the Partnership in Ontario.

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