An Exploration of Voluntary Practices and Programs to Conserve Agricultural Biodiversity in Ontario’s Dairy Industry

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Sousa, Emily C.
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University of Guelph

As an economically significant industry in Ontario, dairy farming is increasingly challenged for ecologically-damaging production practices adversely impacting biodiversity and ecosystem services. Emerging campaigns in Ontario encourage farmers to not only mitigate such adverse effects but work to have production benefit biodiversity resources and vice versa. In this context, however, agricultural biodiversity conservation is dependent on farmers' voluntary actions and available supports. This case study research characterizes agri-environmental practices and program delivery in southwestern Ontario's dairy industry to support farmers' efforts effectively. Results reveal that farmers' motivations for biodiversity conservation are complex, having implications for program design and delivery. Results also show that conservation authorities are prominent in delivering programs to farmers. However, the capacity of conservation authorities to continue doing so may be limited by legislative changes to their mandates and partnering municipalities' capacity. This research concludes with recommendations to improve programs and outlines an inventory of analyzed programs.

Agricultural biodiversity, Biodiversity conservation, Agri-environmental programs, Ontario, Waterloo Region, Oxford County, Perth County, Wellington County, Dairy, Sustainable agriculture, Voluntary programs, Conservation authorities, Sustainable production, Natural resource management, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Ducks Unlimited, Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, Grand River Conservation Authority, Credit Valley Conservation, Maitland Valley Conservation Authority, Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority