Project – 5 – Ecological Goods and Services in BC Agriculture – Studying Nutrient Management in the Lower Fraser Valley

  • Location: University of British Columbia
  • Research Team: Dr. Sumeet Gulati and Karen Ageson
  • Duration: October 2009 – August 2010

Brief Project Description/Overview:

The concept of EGS, as it relates to agriculture, assumes multifunctionality: that agriculture produces more than just food and fibre. Agriculture produces non-commodity ecological goods and services when it uses the environment in a way that is valued by society. Market prices of food and fibre do not reflect these valued ecological goods and services, and are therefore undersupplied. The concept of EGS is finding currency in environmental policy as governments find ways to utilize market-based mechanisms to incent the production of ecological ‘goods’ from agriculture and minimize ecological ‘bads’.

The deliverables from this research include:

  1. An academic literature review of EGS in theory and practice as relevant to the province of British Columbia and particularly focused on nutrient management practices.
  2. A report on the potential of employing the concept of EGS to minimize agricultural nutrient loading of groundwater in the Lower Fraser Valley (LFV) of BC.

Why is this research important? There is a prominent agricultural industry in the LFV, sharing a bioregion with the urban metropolis of Greater Vancouver. The LFV hosts some of the most fertile land in Canada, and ranks amongst the highest concentrated agricultural activity in the country. There is measurable environmental impact, documented in the literature, that links increased agricultural intensity to ground and surface water pollution. Projected growth in the livestock industry threatens to further exacerbate agricultural nutrient management issues in the LFV. To date, there has been little research into market-based instruments that might address negative environmental externalities in the LFV, and little valuation research that would lay the groundwork for market-based instruments to address nutrient management issues.

The research approach: An extensive literature review to establish a theoretical framework grounded in the principles of EGS, cognizant of limitations in practice, i.e. data requirements, public expenditure implied by policy, lack of additionality. Established literature lends credence to a case study approach, specific in focus and pertinent to particular agri-ecological conditions. Further literature review, review of government publications, interviews with government and professional agrologists and farm visits, to ascertain the LFV agricultural context, the major agri-environmental issues facing the industry, state of knowledge and potential data sources.

Potential data sources include census data, industry provided growth rates, Environment Canada water quality data, and Agriculture Canada ammonia emissions inventory data. This work will also possibly shed light on data limitations, as well as policy inconsistencies that may need to be addressed for successful implementation of market-based policies. A literature and government policy review will reveal insights into alternative policy regimes that may be pertinent to nutrient management in the LFV context, (that is cross-compliance regulation for payments for EGS).