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Drought in farm funding applications

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 17, 2008

K'ATLODEECHE/HAY RIVER RESERVE - A federal program to provide funding for trial-based farming and growing operations in the NWT has received no applications for money, according to the Territorial Farmers Association, which administers the program.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Farm animals graze at Paradise Gardens in Hay River. A federal program to provide funding for innovative farming and agriculture projects in the territory did not receive any applications during the last call for submissions, according to the Territorial Farmers Association. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

The Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Program (ACAAF) is a five-year program ending this March.

The Territorial Farmers Association in Hay River has put out calls for expressions of interest twice a year. While the numbers vary quit a bit - some years only two, some years as many as five or six, coming from places like Inuvik, Fort Smith, Aklavik, Fort Liard and Hay River - the program has funded 12 projects in the past five years.

But this year marks the first time the program has failed to spur any formal responses, according to Evellyn Coleman, the association's executive director.

"I'm not sure if maybe it's because the program is a little hard for people to understand," said Coleman.

Part of the problem, she said, is that potential candidates go into the application process with the wrong expectations, disappointed with the criteria for funding.

The fund is not meant for capital startup costs or the cost of operations but for projects that try out new methods of farming or growing that stand to benefit the entire industry in the territory.

"Like a prototype greenhouse," said Coleman. "We can put forward some money for some of the more scientific things that a greenhouse would need to do that, but we can't physically build the greenhouse for them.

"I think a lot of people request the information because they think it's a program to do almost anything," said Coleman.

The deadline for submissions - which was originally last Monday - has been extended indefinitely.

In the meantime, Coleman is calling up people that had contacted the association for information regarding the program, to see if they can't be convinced to apply or tweak their plans to better suit the program.

"I still think we might get some. We always extend our deadlines," said Coleman.

One potential applicant in Aklavik wants to build cold frames - transparent roofed boxes built directly on the ground - used to protect plants from cold weather.

"We wouldn't be able to fund these unless they built two different types and showed which one worked better," said Coleman.