Ontario farms tend to be dominated by field crops and managed pasture, but there are many opportunities for farmers to create habitat for endangered species.
The Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP) is designed to help farmers make those opportunities become reality, explains Margaret May, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Regional Program Lead.
SARFIP provides funding to agricultural landowners interested in habitat creation and protection for the more than 220 species identified as at-risk in the province. OSCIA has administered the program for the past eight years, explains May who notes that wetland restoration and the fencing component of the program continues to be popular as well as tree windbreaks and grassland planting.
The 2016 program opened for applications beginning April 1. Application deadline is Dec. 15. May says the program encourages creativity and innovation. It’s also important for farmers to pursue projects that work for their farm.
Farmers can receive a maximum of $20,000 cost share funding annually. Cost share is 50% for eligible Best Management Practice categories. Cost share level can increase to 65% if farmers have species at risk on or nearby their property and their project focuses on meeting the specific conservation needs of the species. An additional 10% cost share bonus is available to farmers who engage specialists, such as a wildlife biologist, who can evaluate the presence of the species on the farm and the project’s impact.
May advises farmers to submit their applications before starting projects, but in the case of windbreaks or shelterbelts that require early-season planting, retroactive funding is available. In these cases, she recommends getting applications in as soon as possible.
“If farmers have ideas for projects they can contact OSCIA field staff and we’ll try to help you through it,” says May who notes that, overall, the application process is very straight forward and easy to complete.
To be eligible for the program, applicants must be actively farming or own actively farmed land in Ontario; have a completed Environmental Farm Plan; and have a valid Premises Identification Number. SARFIP is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, and by the Government of Canada through the federal Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk.