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Compensation for environmentally friendly farming

At a REAP-Canada workshop held in Woodstock, Ontario on November 30,1990, John Van Dorp of Woodstock outlined how on-farm research has reduced his costs of production substantially (approximately $20,000/year) over the last couple of years. He proposed specific financial incentives that would entice more farmers to take an environmentally-friendly approach to farming. Following is a brief summary of his proposal.

Rebate System for Environmental Approach to Farming

For the past 2 years, Van Dorp has been involved in cover crop studies under the supervision of the Technology Evaluation and Development (TED) program, a sub-component of the joint federal provincial Soil & Water Environmental Enhancement Program (SWEEP). These studies examine the N-P-K and organic matter contributions to the soil, as well as ground cover on slopes. Van Dorp is also currently testing oil radish seeded after a late summer application of manure. The aim is to investigate the ability of oil radish to scavenge nutrients and John Van Dorp Improved manure and cover crop management resulted in reduced input costs . . . but also caused trouble at tax time relay them to the following corn crop. With programs designed to improve manure and cover crop management, soil filth and fertility, Van Dorp has experienced a great reduction in input costs. ''Practicing this on our 325 acre dairy and hog operation over the past 2 years, we have seen a dramatic decrease in purchases of fertilizers, pesticides and fuel" says Van Dorp.

Van Dorp is critical of the fact that these savings, which also promote less damage to the environment, become taxable the following year. Van Dorp has put together ideas for a possible rebate system for environmentally conscious farmers. His proposal is as follows:

1. Because every dollar invested properly in a cover crop can reduce fertilizer purchases by $4-$6 as well as building soil tilth, etc., then there should be a $4 tax rebate for every dollar's worth of cover crop seed planted between August and November.

2. A general tax (20-50%) could be applied to pesticides to help limit their use, but this does not reward farmers for their ecological approach in not using chemicals at all.

An alternative would be to limit how much a farmer could claim as expense on the income tax submission, based on pesticide use per acre of tillable land.

This would create "an equal system of taxation for both the farmers who use pesticides and those who don't" says Van Dorp.

3. Because governments do offer some funding to help clean up production practices, then farmers should take advantage of them (i.e. Land Stewardship II).

Van Dorp concluded by emphasizing that the government could appropriate more money to maintain a strong agricultural industry in Canada that is committed to the preservation of the environment and less money for importing food from elsewhere.

Copyright 1991 REAP Canada

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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