Cutting Shelterbelt Program Bad for Farmers, Land, Biodiversity and Climate – NFU

(Saskatoon): With a wild swing of its budgetary axe, the federal government is about to hack down the 111 year-old Prairie Shelterbelt Program. This short-sighted destructive move will have negative consequences for prairie farmers, their crops and livestock, soils, wildlife and the climate.

“Talk about a scorched earth policy! To end the Prairie Shelterbelt Program makes no sense at all when we are dealing with increasing climate volatility and erratic weather patterns. The Shelterbelt Program has not only provided trees to buffer the effects of wind, heat and snowfall, but has created unique knowledge and expertise about how to plan, maintain and nurture trees on the prairies for the benefit of farmers and the broader public. To end this program now to save a bit of money is worse than short-sighted,” said Ed Sagan, NFU Saskatchewan Regional Coordinator.

“In the context of the federal budget, where billions of dollars are being allocated to research but only if it is business-related, the reason for cutting the Shelterbelt Program cannot simply be viewed as an austerity measure,” said Terry Boehm, NFU President. “The program’s benefits are broad and far-reaching. As stated on Agriculture  Canada’s own website, shelterbelts have many, many benefits including reducing wind, which prevents soil erosion and reduces moisture evaporation, providing wildlife habitat and thus increasing biodiversity, improving crop yields, reducing livestock stress and improving animal health and feed efficiency, as well as beautifying farmyards and reducing heating and cooling costs for farm buildings. To end this program is to say that we as a society do not value these benefits any more, and that is shameful.”

The Shelterbelt Program, located at the Agriculture Canada Agroforestry Development Centre in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, provides seedlings free of charge to farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta  and the Peace River area of BC, but farmers must pay the transportation cost and do all the work of planting and looking after the trees so that they will survive. An independent study prior to 2010 estimated the public good from shelterbelt trees provided through the Prairie Shelterbelt Program since 1981 to be as much as $600 million and the value of private good to be as much as $340 million. Furthermore, it has been estimated that the number of trees planted through the Shelterbelt Program in just one year will sequester over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 during the following fifty years as they grow.

The National Farmers Union calls upon the federal government to reverse this cut.

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For more information:

Terry Boehm, NFU President: (306) 255-2880

Ed Sagan, NFU Region 6 (Saskatchewan) Coordinator:  (306) 728-3760 or (306) 728-9050

Cathy Holtslander, NFU Director of Research and Policy: (306) 652-9465