Project – 10 – Gathering Farm Level Production Information and BMP Preferences

  • Location: McGill University
  • Research Team: Dr. Paul J. Thomassin, Dr. Laurie Baker, Réne Roy and Mathieu Gourdes-Vachon
  • Duration: October 2009 – July 2011

Brief Project Description/Overview:
The Chaudière watershed is an intensively farmed area that has one of the highest concentrations of animal production in Québec and approximately two thirds of it land area in crop production (AAFC, 2007). The Bras d’Henri sub-watershed is located within the Chaudière watershed and has 32 percent of its land in crop production and has 84.24 animals per square kilometre (MDDEP, 2006). Surface water quality has deteriorated substantially in the Bras d’Henri and agricultural non-point source pollution has been identified as the major cause of this deterioration (MDDEP, 2006). As a result of this intensity in production and the substantial decrease in water quality, this watershed has been identified for study under AAFC’s Watershed Evaluation of Best Management Practices (WEBs).

The WEBs project is undertaking a biophysical-hydrological-economic evaluation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the watershed. The BMPs being investigated include: riparian zones, precision feeding, alternative manure applications, reduced pesticide applications, and alternative crop mixes. The study will include hydrologic modelling, economic modelling and the integration of both the economic and hydrologic models. The goal is to be able to identify the economic and environmental impact of adopting BMPs in the sub-watershed. This will allow for the estimation of abatement costs curves that will be used in the experimental economics component of the project.

The ERCA request for funding will supplement the WEBs funding. The research to be undertaken is a survey of the agricultural practices of 80 producers in the Bras d’Henri sub-watershed. The information gathered will include: the number of fields on the farm, crops grown, rotations, number of animals, spatial location of farm and fields, location of fields in and out of the watershed, cost information, farm structure, and rented land. The survey will also gather information on BMPs that the producers have already adopted and their preferences for alternative BMPs that could be adopted in the future. This is a follow-up survey to one that was carried out in 2007 to see how farm structure has changed, with respect to the poor hog prices, and the impact of BMP adoption. Special emphasis will be made to interview and gather data on 19 producers who did not complete the initial survey. These operators contain some of the larger operations in the area and are critical for the model development. These larger operators have multiple production sites within the watershed for production, are mainly animal producers, and the structure of these units are substantially different from the family farms currently modelled. The ERCA funding will be used to fund a PhD student to design and implement the survey and to pay for undergraduates to collect data.

Information gathered in the survey will be utilized in the economic model. The model has been designed as an inter-regional mixed integer programming model, where each farm is considered as a region that allows for the trading of inputs, outputs and manure. The spatial information gathered on the farms will allow a refinement of the environmental coefficients that are based on homogeneous hydrologic units. This will allow for a more accurate estimation of the trade-off curves.