Changes to the 2017 Farmland Health Incentive Program (FHIP) will create an even greater focus on managing water quality in the western and central Lake Erie basin.
For the past two years, FHIP, part of the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI), has focused on supporting and funding Ontario farmer stewardship efforts in an area that extends anywhere south of a line from Tobermory to Niagara Falls.
Margaret May, regional program lead with Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (which administrates the program), explains that the target area has now been narrowed to anywhere south of Highway 402 with a jog north to the Stratford area, then south to Lake Erie.
May emphasizes that farmers in the larger GLASI stewardship area are still eligible for the FHIP program, but projects from farmers in the western and central basin area will be given priority. She notes that farmers can visit the OSCIA website for an interactive map to determine whether they are in the priority zone.
FHIP will continue to fund farmer projects focusing on a range of best management practices that help reduce phosphorus loading in Lake Erie. Equipment updating, cover crops and organic amendments have been some of the most popular program categories.
May notes that in an effort to bring new farmers into the program, these categories now have limits attached. For example, farmers who made claims for equipment modifications in the past two years of the program will not be eligible for that category in 2017. As well, cost share funding for cover crops and organic amendments will be limited to 200 acres over the life of the program. May adds, however, that farmers who have reached these limits are encouraged to apply for other best management practice categories.
Three levels of funding are now available. Projects classified as ‘priority’ will be eligible for 50% cost share to a maximum of $20,000; ‘recommended’ projects are eligible for 40% cost share up to a $10,000 maximum; and general soil health improvement projects qualify for 35% and $5,000.
The application period runs from Nov. 22 to Dec 13. May notes that project applications will be evaluated in the order they are received, but priority will be given to those in the western and central Lake Erie basin.
May says if farmers are really keen to get funding for their project “it’s fairly critical to get your application in there sooner rather than later.”