Grenville past president and OFA regional director Geri Kamenz is "really disappointed and discouraged" at being "turned down flat" by CanAdapt on a $100,000 shared funding proposal that he and other participants felt was a natural.
Backed by funding partners South Nation Conservation, the Township of Casselman and the City of Gloucester, the proposal was for an independent study of the sources of phosphorous overloading the South Nation River watershed.
"We had letters of endorsement from every farm organization," Kamenz told The AgriNews. "There was no one out there who didn't think this would be an important study."
The Spencerville-area farmer added the impact could have been province-wide, with information gleaned on phosphorous in the South Nation serving as a starting point in other watersheds. It was hoped the study would get to the murky bottom of the controversial question of where the heavy South Nation phosphorous load originates? It's controversial because many farmers in the watershed feel they've been unfairly tagged as the main culprits.
The Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC), which oversees CanAdapt, is now being criticized for turning a blind eye on Eastern Ontario clean water projects after rejecting the application fronted by the Grenville and Dundas county federations.
The farmer-driven proposal was given a thumbs down by the CanAdapt review committee on grounds the cost-benefit ratio was insufficient, said Angela Stiles, program manager for the Guelph-based funding agency.
Stiles emphasized that the Grenville and Dundas federations have been invited to resubmit a proposal which includes additional funding partners such as MOE.
"I think if you look at the list, you'll find that no clean water project east of Toronto has received ACC funding," said SNC general manager Dennis O'Grady.
O'Grady said it's the second time a similar study request has been nixed by AAC. Stiles countered that the two proposals differed substantially, with the first one driven by SNC requesting a larger amount of funding under AAC's National Soil and Water Conservation Program. "The first time, they complained that we had no participation from farmers. This time, we've got farmers initiating the project and CanAdapt is telling us we won't be funded because there's not enough local financial involvement," said a perplexed O'Grady.
In a March 27 letter rejecting the first proposal, adaptation council chair Paul Henderson, a farming neighbor to Kamenz, indicated the SNC had failed to partner with the local agricultural community. He noted the committee had reviewed 32 surface and ground water projects seeking a total of $2.5 million when only $750,000 had been allocated.
Henderson said the committee would be interested in taking another look "once agricultural partnerships have been established and community funds have been secured."
The Grenville/Dundas request for two-thirds funding was presented to CanAdapt earlier this summer by the federations anxious to learn the main sources of phosphorous in the South Nation.
For close to two years, that issue has pitted farmers against MOE and the SNC which had linked to deliver a Total Phosphorous Management (TPM) program designed to put remedial money where it would do the most good.
That wasn't into municipal and industrial sewage lagoons which empty into the waterway because they contribute only a small proportion of the phosphorous load. The best place to invest was in combating so called "non-point sources", including agricultural runoff, natural erosion, septic systems and commercial operations such as golf courses.
But farmers asked to voluntarily participate in TPM got their backs up on grounds sources had never been clearly identified and the program tended to let municipalities "off the hook", allowing them to opt for much more economical TPM rather than install expensive phosphorous reduction equipment.
Led by Dundas County activist Gordon Garlough, farm leaders insisted the first order of business was to pin down the sources. As Garlough has stated, an independent study would allow farmers to "evaluate our responsibility in relation to the phosphorous issue and other water protection matters."
Faced by strong resistance, MOE and SNC set aside TPM until the study could be completed. With no CanAdapt funding forthcoming, O'Grady said he isn't sure what the next move will be. Kamenz said he plans to discuss possible further action with Garlough.
Launched in 1995, AAC has approved some 350 projects for a total of $30 million in direct funding, resulting in another $73 million in project activity. Last month, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lyle Vanclief announced AAC projects will continue to be funded through the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund.