The Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) has new application rules, deadlines and funding levels to better help farmers take advantage of the program.
GLASI is targeted to farmers in the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds, and Lake Huron’s southeast shores watershed, to help implement Better Management Practices (BMPs) that reduce phosphorus loading to the Great Lakes. The program consists of two components: First, the “Farmland Health Check-Up” offers farmers in the GLASI target area a free, one-on-one consultation with a Certified Crop Advisor. The Check-Up involves assessing soil and pollinator health to determine base and target levels.
The second part of the program is called the “Farmland Health Incentive Program,” and offers funding to farmers interested in implementing BMPs identified in the Check-Up.
Margaret May, regional program lead with Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, explains that the biggest change is a new “pre Check-Up” funding level that allows farmers to participate in the program without first having to complete the Check-Up.
The change is designed to make the program more attractive and get farmers involved quickly, without having to wait for the Check-Up to be complete. The pre-Check-Up funding covers any eligible BMP outlined in the program with the funding level set at 30% cost share for projects valued up to $10,000. Every farm business with an Environmental Farm Plan within GLASI’s target area is now eligible for pre-Check-Up funding.
May stresses that it’s still important for farmers to complete the Check-Up process to have full access to program benefits. “Once you have been through the Farmland Health Check-Up, there are multiple opportunities for cost share depending on what Best Management Practices you choose and how many program categories it targets,” she says.
Basically, fields assessed in the Check-Up are eligible for 50% cost share up to $25,000. But if a field is assessed as fair or poor, the program will provide additional cost share support if multiple BPMs are required. “Maybe you can do erosion control structures and cover crops on the same property – that gets you a bonus in terms of cost share and we’ve upped that to 60%.”
May says some neat components have been added, especially for farm innovators. “There is room for innovators who may want to implement things that have not been tried or proven. For these ideas, a “leading edge” bonus will increase cost share by 5%.
Practices that benefit pollinators are also getting financial support. “If you’re doing something that targets pollinator health, that ups your cost share by 5%. And there’s a system bonus – if you can do two or three things in common…then we up all of them by 5%. You could end up with 75% of a project covered to a max of $25,000. So there are significant dollars here.”
Equipment is also a big part of the program, says May. Cost share is available for tire deflation systems to alleviate compaction, residue management equipment for planters, and equipment required for direct fertilizer placement.
May also notes that the cap for some BMPs in different categories have been increased from $10,000 up to $35,000.
The original deadline for the program was Dec. 15, 2015. That’s now been extended to February 2016. “Most farm businesses have a little bit of extra time over the winter and that gives them an opportunity to get that Farm Health Check-Up done. It also gives them a chance to get some projects in place by February.”
Eligible BMPs include: cover crops, organic amendments, crop nutrient plans, windbreaks/windstrips, buffer strips, tillage/equipment modifications, fragile land retirement and erosion control structures. Applications must include a Premises Identification Number, a Farm Business Registration Number (or appropriate exemption) and a recent peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plan.