Feature Articles

Canadian soil conservation efforts showcased to international congress

September 22, 2006:

CAAPAS delegates check out the ConservaPak seeding system at the Halford Farm
CAAPAS delegates check out the ConservaPak seeding system at the Halford Farm

The weather and prairie hospitality combined to provide a memorable event for about a dozen representatives of an international soil and water conservation organization which held it's week-long annual meeting and conference in southern Saskatchewan in mid-July.

The event, hosted by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC), was the first ever congress held in Canada of the Confederation of American Associations for the Sustainable Production of Agriculture (CAAPAS).

Countries represented at the event included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, USA and, Canada. Delegates from Mexico and Paraguay had also planned to attend the event but couldn't make the trip due to illness and funding issues.

CAAPAS is a confederation of farmer-directed conservation associations whose mandate is to promote sustainable farming practices to their members. There are twelve countries who are members of CAAPAS, including Canada who recently joined in 2004. At the 2005 meeting held in Uruguay, SCCC eagerly accepted a delegates' request that Canada host the 2006 event.

The congress kicked off July 18 with the CAAPAS delegates attending the Indian Head Agriculture Research Foundation (IHARF) zero till field day at the Indian Head experimental farm, east of Regina.

Delegates were amazed at the research being conducted by IHARF on zero till practices, particularly the new "Greenseeker" technology. A visit to the Jim Halford farm and ConservaPak factory also received high praise by the international guests. That evening a "taste of Saskatchewan" dinner at the Sandpiper Restaurant was hosted by ACCUTRAK Systems Ltd. with owner Ron Palmer, sales manager Ron Braden and spouses in attendance.

The congress continued in Regina at the Radisson Hotel Saskatchewan for the rest of the week. Agenda topics included country reports on the status of conservation activities in their areas; the adoption levels of no-till; upcoming events and general attitudes of farmers to conservation practices and strategies.

Another issue receiving attention was how to gain the attention of the major world associations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with respect to promoting the conservation of the soil resources.

Significant time was spent on strategic action ideas for promoting CAAPAS at the world level and what events the organization should be looking at to foster this promotion. Other discussion items included an institutional structure for CAAPAS; updating and maintaining the website to make it more current; involvement at an upcoming zero till conference in Buenos Aires; the experience in carbon sequestration and potential trading in Canada; market certification and differentiation issues; and future direction of the organization.

During the week two dinners were sponsored by industry partners. July 19, Floratine Ag-Solutions hosted an excellent meal at the Willows Restaurant at Wascana Lake in Regina with Floratine representatives Ken Day of California, and Bill Zimmer of Calgary in attendance. Also attending that dinner were representatives from Agriculture Canada and PFRA, Bernie Ward and Bill Harron, respectively.

>MP David Anderson, fifth from left, posed for photo with CAAPAS delegates following breakfast meeting
MP David Anderson, fifth from left, posed for photo with CAAPAS delegates following breakfast meeting

A July 20 dinner, held at the Radisson Hotel, was sponsored by Agrium with Todd Denzin, senior marketing manager from Calgary attending. The lunch on Thursday was sponsored by Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

The congress wrapped up July 21 with presentations from various Saskatchewan manufacturers and input suppliers. This part of the event was organized with the help of Saskatchewan Trade Export Partnership (STEP), who also provided lunch.

CAAPAS delegates were very impressed with many facets of Canadian agriculture, particularly the development of Canadian no-till systems. They marveled at these developments under the trying economic situation that has gripped Canadian farmers.

Delegates also now understand why prairie farmers prefer hoe-type openers for their no-till seeding equipment. They were also impressed with the level of cooperation that exists between farmers, their associations and federal researchers.

Congress delegates were pleased to be joined for a breakfast meeting by federal MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, David Anderson, who is from Frontier, Sask. Anderson brought greetings from the federal government and discussed conservation strategies both in Canada and in South America.

The event was a tremendous success and one that will undoubtedly lead to further cooperation between soil conservation associations across the Americas. The SCCC looks forward to continued collaboration with its southern friends at the next CAAPAS meeting, likely to be held in Brazil in 2007.

For more information contact Doug McKell, SCCC executive director, at (306) 695-4212, djbn.mckell@sasktel.net.

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