$6M available for P.E.I. farms to help cut carbon

·3 min read
Island farmer Rusty Bitterman hopes to use this pond to provide water for his livestock with a portable solar-powered water pump.   (Rusty Bitterman - image credit)
Island farmer Rusty Bitterman hopes to use this pond to provide water for his livestock with a portable solar-powered water pump. (Rusty Bitterman - image credit)

The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture is now receiving applications for a federal program granting money to farmers for projects that will cut carbon emissions.

The federation will be distributing $6 million in federal funding to Island farmers as part of a $182-million national program announced earlier this year. The projects can range from anything from winter cover cropping, to nitrogen management and advanced grazing management.

The federation's executive director Donald Killorn says that about a dozen applications for the On-Farm Climate Action Fund have come in since the organization recently told members it's taking applications.

This will help our farmers become more aggressive and innovative in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. — Donald Killorn

"Farmers are eager to be part of this climate solution," he said.

"We want to be supporting them in things that are pushing their business forward and allowing them to be innovative," he said.

"And then, on the other hand, there's a natural urge of farmers to be good stewards of the land ... And so that encourages them to go the extra mile and seek out the funding."

Killorn said most projects will range from $5,000 to $20,000, though some more cost-intensive projects such as those involving nitrogen management could go upwards of $45,000.

There is no hard deadline. A selection committee will meet monthly and consider applications the federation received prior to the end of the month.

Solar-powered water pumps

Rustaret Farm in Shamrock been managed by Rusty Bitterman and his wife Margaret McCallum for more than a decade, was one of the first to apply for the program.

Rusty Bitterman
Rusty Bitterman

"We applied for two portable solar-powered pump units that would allow us to provide water to our livestock in the fields by using the ponds that we've been building on this farm," he said.

"If we can get these two units, we can have water on pastures that it's really hard to get water to."

"We're trying to have our livestock outdoors as much as we can," said Bitterman. "If they stay in distant fields late into the fall and indeed into the winter, [it's better] than they're leaving manure in the barns and we're then using a tractor and fossil fuel to collect the manure and spread it back."

Bitterman said they've also applied for solar-powered temporary electric fencing which would allow them to rotate their cattle when grazing so the forage can grow back, and seeds suitable for their no-till farming equipment.

"Every time you plow, you release carbon. You also, of course, disrupt the life in the soil ... And so we seed down using our no-till drill," he said.

Bitterman said he's always tried to balance environmental stewardship with profitability, and that the grant is an "all-in-one package" when it comes to its economic and environmental benefits.

"On Prince Edward Island we already have very climate-smart farmers," Killorn said. "This will help our farmers become more aggressive and innovative in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We think that this will take 100,000 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere each year. And we're trying to design it in a way that those gains are sustainable so that we see them beyond the life of the project."

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