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News Roundup – for Mar. 8, 2010

ENVIRONMENT ALBERTA TESTS ALUS CONCEPT

Alberta’s first ALUS (alternative land use services) pilot project was offi-cially launched Jan. 20 at Lloydminster in partnership with the County of Vermilion River (CVR).

The initial proposal from CVR and the Delta Waterfowl Foundation (DWF) back in 2007 was to pay local landowners to create and preserve wetlands to address local flooding problems in the area. It is now being viewed as a test case for this type of community-led, producer-delivered environmental service with the ultimate goal of seeing ALUS going province-wide.

ALUS is a way of compensating landowners who adapt their management to provide society with cleaner air and water, greenhouse gas reductions, fish and wildlife habitat, and appealing agricultural landscapes. Daryl Watt, chairman of the Alberta project, refers to these types of ecological goods and services as “next generation farm products.”

The concept was developed in 1999 by Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers and the DWF but their first pilot project in the RM of Blanchard didn’t get underway until 2005. DWF also assisted with the first pilot project in Ontario.

Prince Edward Island became the first province to adopt ALUS as a province-wide program in 2008.

Joan Gabrielson, whose family operates a grain farm south of Lloydminster, is the ALUS co-ordinator for the CVR pilot. “Each project is different, depending on what the producer wants to do,” she says. “Basically, we have three categories: wetland services to create and restore wetland areas, riparian services to create buffer zones along water courses, and upland services to restore native cover on uplands.” Many producers so far have expressed interest in establishing multi-species shelterbelts.

The initial capital costs to establish projects — purchasing trees or fencing, for example — is shared between the landowner and ALUS. Thereafter, landowners receive an annual payment for the duration of the program, as long as they continue to provide the service.

The size of the payment is negotiable and varies with the quality of the land and the service but is capped at the going rental rate of $40 per acre when top quality land is removed from production to provide an environmental service. Some projects such as dormant-season grazing of wetlands or haying buffer zones would only take land out of production for a portion of the year,

The Alberta project has three-year funding agreements with the CVR, DWF and Wildlife Habitat Canada. Other potential partners are still in negotiations. New projects will be accepted as new funding is received. For more information, contact Gabrielson at 780-871-3589, or jgabrielon.

POLICY CCA TAKES AIM AT R-CALF

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) is riled up over R-CALF’s recent letter to the United States Department of Agriculture and the U. S. Trade Representative objecting to Canada’s WTO complaint on COOL.

In a February statement the CCA asks, “How many times over the years has R-CALF blasted out a press release trumpeting some ‘revelation’ about Canadian cattle production, only to be proven wrong when the facts came out?” The CCA says this letter is no exception.

“If they can’t be right, at least they are predictable,” says the statement which goes on to review the R-CALF record for creating controversy where none exits.

There was the time in 2005 when they declared that Canada was decreasing its BSE testing levels, when in fact Canada was increasing its testing levels. There was also their analysis showing that Canadian BSE testing levels didn’t measure up to U. S. levels. When the CCA explained that the Canadian beef herd is about one-sixth the size of the U. S. beef herd, it became clear that Canada actually was testing proportionately higher numbers of cattle than the U. S.

There was the time in 2007 when they claimed Canadian cattle were being illegally sold in U. S. auction barns, when in fact somebody just imagined they had seen a Canadian ear tag in South Dakota. The tags in question were collected at a packer in Nebraska and the Canadian cattle identification system quickly traced them back to animals that were exported from Canada to the U. S. the day prior to slaughter. There was no way the ear tags in question could have been on cattle in a sale barn in South Dakota at the time alleged.

There was the time also in 2007 when the Washington State R-CALF affiliate claimed thousands of Canadian cattle were being lost in that state. The CCA and several Canadian cattle exporters traveled to the state capital

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