To work with Prairie people to build a viable agricultural industry and to support a sound rural economy, healthy environment and a high quality of life.
PFRA was created in response to an economic and environmental disaster that, in the 1930's, threatened the social and economic survival of 900,000 people on the Canadian Prairies. That disaster, known as the ";Dirty Thirties, ; resulted from a series of drought years - the impacts of which were magnified by several decades of rapid environmental and cultural change on the Prairies.
Between 1850 and 1910, the Prairies were home to native people, metis, ranchers and farmers, each of whom understood and used resources differently. How each group used and altered the natural ecosystem depended on their needs and perception of the value of the resource base. Native people, metis and ranchers pursued a relatively harmonious relationship with the natural environment. Annual crop farming - encouraged by a government policy that was intended to attract settlers to the west - created a new land use.
The settlers came, but their farming practices had been developed in more humid environments, and did not work well in the semi-arid southern prairies. Prairie soils required careful management to grow crops in moisture deficient conditions without causing land degradation. Between 1910 and 1935, farming in the Prairies went through periods of adequate moisture and extreme drought, which resulted in either bumper crops or crop failures. Although agricultural production knowledge and experience grew with each drought cycle, Prairie farmers were not prepared for the lengthy drought that was to come.
As a result, serious consideration was given in the 1930's to relocating the pioneers who had travelled west to build a new life. Although this was a partial solution, and some families were relocated, it was not in keeping with the pioneering spirit. Instead, a concerted effort was mounted to confront the challenge - to counter the damage that farming practices had inflicted; to apply new solutions in extremely adverse circumstances. In April 1935, the federal government faced the daunting task of reclaiming the Prairies by creating the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA). For PFRA, the immediate task and its purpose ever since, has been to work with Prairie people to:
... secure the rehabilitation of the drought and soil drifting areas in the Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and to develop and promote within those areas, systems of farm practice, tree culture, water supply, land utilization and land settlement that will afford greater economic security (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, 1935).
Since the passage of the PFR Act,we have fulfilled our mandate in ways that respond to the specific issues of the times. In the earliest days, the major focus was on water supply, consolidating marginal land into community pastures, and demonstrating soil conservation methods. An emphasis on large dam and irrigation project development followed in the 50's and 60's. The focus shifted to municipal infrastructure in the 70's. Drought and land degradation issues brought a return to PFRA's conservation roots in the 80's. Most recently, broader rural economic and environmental issues have been our priority.