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Social, economic and environmental evaluation of agri-environmental beneficial management practices

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In British Columbia, the Canada-British Columbia Environmental Farm Plan Beneficial Management Practices Program (BMP Program) encourages the adoption of agri-environmental practices on farms. The BMP Program is a voluntary and confidential program, which is jointly funded by the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Since 2005 the BMP Program has provided funding to farmers to adopt agri-environmental Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) and during this time no evaluation of the program has occurred resulting in a lack of program feedback to program directors. The specific objectives for this project were to (1) develop a methodology to conduct a social, economic and environmental outcome evaluation of BMPs adopted on BC farms; (2) evaluate the social, economic and environmental outcomes of four BMPs and; (3) make policy recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture to allow for adaptive management of the BMP Program using the evaluation methodology. The four BMPs evaluated for this study included Alternative Watering Systems to Manage Livestock, Riparian Buffer Establishment, Irrigation Management, and Wildlife Damage Prevention. The evaluation was undertaken for four BMPs with partially overlapping surveys, which were administered with a sample of BMP adopters in the fall of 2011 with in-person interviews as well as with mail surveys. The surveys collected both baseline and social, economic and environmental BMP outcome data. Results show that environmental outcomes are positive but in some cases depend on on-going maintenance and upkeep of certain BMPs. Generally adopters of the riparian BMPs are motivated by stewardship and environmental factors whereas adopters of the Irrigation Management and Wildlife Damage Prevention BMPs are motivated by on-farm benefits offered by the BMPs. The largest barrier to adoption for all BMPs appears to be cost; however, barriers are overall lower for both the Irrigation Management and Wildlife Damage Prevention BMPs, which is reflected in the adoption levels to date. Results of the study highlight both the outcomes of the BMP to individual farm operations, and the overall impact of the BMP Program to society as well as provides critical feedback to program directors.
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