By Steve Brackenridge
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
After an inclusive and extensive consultation process, the Ontario government released its final Soil Health and Conservation Strategy document on April 23. The strategy sets out a detailed framework for sustainability that will guide the long-term health of agricultural soils through to 2030.
This document is an important one for the agriculture community for a number of reasons. Healthy soils are a priority for farmers and critical to the sustainability of Ontario agriculture. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), along with other industry partners and Ontario farmers were actively involved in the consultations and discussions on this complex topic. And the level of collaboration across the industry was unprecedented – helping the soil health working group pull the strategy together in its final form.
There are four main themes in the new soil health strategy – soil management, soil data and mapping, soil evaluation and monitoring, and soil knowledge and innovation. Each of these themes contain a set of key objectives and a list of proposed actions to achieve the objectives. The strategy will serve as a key resource to revitalize interest in and the importance of provincial soil health, and provide a roadmap for provincial efforts and investments to conserve our soils for future generations.
OFA understands that for some, farming practices may need to change to ensure long-term soil health. Some changes will be easy and may come from a simple technological fix or minor adjustment to current practices. Other changes will need a longer-term solution and a more thoughtful approach to soil management.
It is very important to note that the proposed action areas in the soil strategy will be voluntary and that implementation is in all of our best interests, from improving current and future yields to better carbon sequestration. Many of the proposed actions provide more detailed information to farmers to help manage soil health, provide incentives for health and conservation efforts, or promote the adoption of beneficial management practices that boost soil health and the bottom line.
OFA was pleased to be part of the working group that developed the strategy, and to help ensure the voices of farmers and stakeholders were heard through consultations on the draft strategy.
Improving soil health across the province will be a complex process, and OFA looks forwards to working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and other agricultural stakeholders, to successful implement this new soil health strategy.