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Renew vows during National Soil Conservation Week, say soil conservation leaders

Indian Head, Sask., April 18, 2006:

While much progress has been made in protecting Canada's soil resource over the past 20 years, this is no time to let up on conservation efforts, says the executive director of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC).

As the country marks the 21st anniversary of National Soil Conservation week, April 17 to 23, it's an opportunity to renew vows to soil conservation to both raise awareness about conservation and to develop and promote farming practices which reduce the risk of soil erosion and other environmental impacts says Doug McKell, of Indian Head, Sask.

"It's a subject producers need to be ever vigilant about," says McKell. "We have made great progress since the first messages about 'Keep Your Stubble Up' were introduced in Western Canada in the 1990s, but we still have a ways to go.

"Producers need to be talking with other producers. And farm organizations, whether at the provincial level or through national organizations such as the Soil Conservation Council of Canada, need to make governments aware of this important initiative."

There is still a percentage of the land that is not being tilled efficiently and there are many acres where farmers are over applying nitrogen fertilizer, says McKell. So there is a combination of practices that still have to be addressed.

While the push for improvements is ongoing, there has been real progress in soil conservation, says McKell. Statistics Canada figures show, for example, the number of acres of summerfallow - a practice more common in Western Canada - dropped from nearly 20 million acres in 1991 to about 10 million acres in the early part of this decade. And the trend appears set to continue.

A similar conservation trend is growing in Eastern Canada where more producers are adopting direct seeding and zero till cropping practices. Anywhere from 10 to 75 percent of corn, soybean and grains are now being produced under direct or reduced-tillage seeding systems, depending on the crop and region.

"The public needs to know that producers through organizations such as the Soil Conservation Council of Canada are working to protect the soil resource," says McKell. "And farmers, if they haven't already, need to contact their local soil conservation associations to learn more about beneficial management practices which not only benefit production but also help protect the environment."

Initiatives such as the Environmental Farm Plan program, are a win/win situation for producers and the environment, adds Eugene Legge, SCCC president and a Newfoundland and Labrador producer.

Although farmers in most Eastern Canada provinces have been involved in Environmental Farm Plans for several years, it is relatively new program introduced in Western Canada over the past three years, he says.

"The value of the planning process has farmers evaluating their existing production practices and deciding where improvements need to be made," says Legge. "Participation in the Environmental Farm Plan process provides practical ideas which not only benefit the environment, but also improve production efficiency. Soil and water conservation efforts are a big part of that.

"Farmers need to be actively involved in these programs and the public needs to know producers are serious about being good stewards of the land."

SCCC is the face and voice of soil conservation in Canada. A national, non-governmental, independent organization, it was formed in 1987 to provide a non-partisan public forum at the national level for soil conservation. Using a grass roots approach combined with the scientific, technical and practical experience of its members, it works with government and private industry, individuals and non-government organizations to address soil degradation and facilitate exchange of information across Canada.

For more information, contact:
Doug McKell, Executive Director
Doug McKell, Executive Director
Soil Conservation Council of Canada
Indian Head, Sask.
Ph.: (306) 695-4212