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Reducing agricultural impacts on the environment
Target 3.6: Freshwater quality – Achieve a value between 81–100 on each of the water quality and soil quality agri-environmental performance indices by March 31, 2030.
In 2006, the Water Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Index was rated as good (78); however, it has declined (by 7 points) from the desired level. The Soil Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Index was 77 (in 2006), an improvement from 2001 (by 3 points).
The government undertakes research and provides information on the impact of agricultural activities on the environment, including the effects of nutrients, pesticides and the use of water resources.
The Growing Forward agriculture policy, a five-year federal/provincial/territorial initiative, provides flexible programs that adapt to meet regional needs while achieving common national goals. The policy modernizes regulatory processes to support a competitive and innovative agricultural sector, and provides simple and accessible programs and services to help farms assess priority environmental risks. For example, each producer is required to complete a full risk assessment on operations prior to accessing funding for the implementation of environmental Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs).
To determine the impact of activities under policy frameworks like Growing Forward, the government has developed a set of sciencebased agri-environmental indicators that integrate information on soils, climate and topography with statistics on land use and crop and livestock management practices. Programming under this initiative serves to determine the impacts achieved from the implementation of BMP activities mentioned above.
Progress towards Target 3.6: Agri-environmental performance indices for soil and water quality
In 2006, the Water Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Index was rated as good (78); however, it has declined by 7 points from the desired level. The Soil Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Index was 77 (in 2006), an improvement from 2001 by 3 points. These soil and water ratings are displayed in Figure 3.8.
For the most up-to-date information on this indicator, please visit CESI.
Figure 3.8: Agri-environmental performance indices for soil and water quality in Canada, 1981–2006
The chart shows the evolution of the soil quality and water quality agri-environmental performance indices from 1981 to 2006. The index ranges from 0 to 100 and index results are classified in 5 categories: “undesirable” (0 to 20), “poor” (21 to 40), “average” (41 to 60), “good” (61 to 80) and “desired” (81 to 100). The target for soil and water quality indices is set at the “desired” category. The soil quality agri-environmental performance index results are “good” and increasing towards the “desired” level. The water quality agri-environmental index results are rated “good” but have declined from the “desired” level.
These high ratings on the agri-environmental performance indices mean that, overall, Canadian farmers are working in a manner that protects the environment.
The decline of the Water Quality Agri-Environmental Performance Index at the national level was due to increased application of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) as fertilizers and manures on farms. In areas of higher precipitation, increased water flow through the soil increases runoff from land where pesticides and fertilizers were applied and can result in poorer water quality in receiving waters.
The improvement shown in the Soil Quality Agri-environmental Index was largely due to adoption of reduced-till or no-till farming practices, particularly in the western provinces. In eastern Canada, where higher rainfall supports more intensive crop production and tillage practices are more conventional than in the West, soils may be more affected by agricultural practices.
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