By Matthew Liebenberg
The Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds (SAW) has opened a district office in Swift Current to make it easier to connect with agricultural producers and other stakeholders about regional and provincial watershed programming.
The opening of the new office coincides with the delivery of a major funding program by SAW to assist agricultural producers with climate change adaptation measures.
Angela Waite is the district manager of the new Southwest District office, which is located at 145 1st Ave NE in in downtown Swift Current.
“We can do a lot over the phone or online, but we wanted the opportunity for people to be able to come to our office to discuss programs or do applications in person if they so choose,” she said. “From my conversations with producers, many would prefer to meet in person and since Swift Current is a hub for a vast area, we thought it made sense to open our Southwest District office here.”
SAW serves as an umbrella organization for watersheds in the province. It is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect and conserve water resources in Saskatchewan. Its head office is located in Moose Jaw and there are 18 staff members throughout the province. Two staff members are in the southwest district, with Waite at the district office in Swift Current and Agri-Environmental Watershed Coordinator Michelle Keck in Gravelbourg.
The Southwest District office will assist SAW to serve the area with a variety of current programming, whether for agricultural producers or others.
“Some of our other programs aren’t related to agriculture, because we do aquatic invasive species testing, we have a Trees for Life program, we do some educational program, and we have some other programs that are in the works,” Waite said.
SAW is responsible for delivering a major new program, which is part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s On-Farm Climate Action Fund. The Prairie Watersheds Climate Program (PWCP) will provide funding to Saskatchewan and Manitoba producers to implement various management practices in their farming and ranching operations.
It will make up to $40 million available over a two-year period until March 2024, of which $20 million will be allocated to Saskatchewan producers. All activities funded under the program must be completed on or before June 30, 2024.
The Manitoba Association of Watersheds is the lead organization for managing the PWCP and SAW is delivering the program in Saskatchewan. Program applications are now open and the new Southwest District office in Swift Current will assist SAW to reach and interact with interested producers in this region.
The PWCP will make funding available for beneficial management practices (BMPs) in three categories, namely rotational grazing, nitrogen management and cover cropping.
Rotational grazing refers to measures such as fencing, watering systems and grazing management plans to allow forage plants in pasture areas to recover between livestock use.
More effective nitrogen management will have economic benefits for producers through a reduction of nitrogen losses and it will lower greenhouse gas emissions. PWCP funding can be used to implement a variety of nitrogen management measures, for example soil mapping and testing, the development of farm-specific nitrogen management plans, equipment modifications to improve fertilizer application in fields, and adding legumes to crop rotation.
Cover crops can improve soil health and it can have other ecological benefits, for example the prevention of weed growth and erosion, the improvement of biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing nitrogen to the next crop. PWCP funding can be used for seed and seeding costs to plant regionally approved cover crops.
Waite noted that the implementation of the various practices funded under the PWCP can have wide-ranging benefits, including for watershed health.
“The adoption of beneficial management practices, which is what the PWCP is encouraging, contributes to adaption to climate change, but it also improves soil health, increases nitrogen efficiency and improves groundcover,” she said. “So all of those have positive effects on conserving water and protecting water quality.”
A producer can receive up to a maximum of $75,000 to implement approved practices funded by the PWCP. Funding can be received for more than one BMP, but the total amount cannot exceed the allowable maximum.
“Many producers have already implemented a lot of these BMPs on their own for a number of years,” she noted. “Many people are doing different things to increase their nitrogen efficiency. People have started cover cropping and rotational grazing is getting to be more popular. These practices are already happening in the southwest. This just provides an incentive to allow more producers to get involved with some of these practices and it provides an incentive to basically try them out and implement them.”
Producers can use PWCP funding to finance a variety of eligible activities in support of BMPs, including consulting advice from agrologists or agronomists. SAW will not provide any expert advice, but it will be hosting some informative workshops in the province over the next few months. Nitrogen management workshops will take place at four different locations during November, including at Swift Current on Nov. 21.
More details about these workshops and registration as well as the PWCP are available on the SAW website at http://www.saskwatersheds.ca
Enquiries about the PWCP or other watershed programs can also be directed to SAW staff in the southwest district.
Appointments with Angela Waite at the new Swift Current office can be made by calling 306-774-2136 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gravelbourg office is located at 402 Main Street and a meeting can be set up with Michelle Keck by calling 306-681-4386 or by sending an e-mail to email@example.com