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Reduced fertilizer use raises concerns in agriculture industry

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By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative reporter on February 2, 2022.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is asking producers to share their thoughts with the government on the proposed 2030 fertilizer emissions reduction target. — NEW PHOTO KENDALL KING

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Details of the federal government’s proposed 30% emissions reduction target for fertilizer use have yet to be released, as Canadian growers and agricultural stakeholders are concerned about the impact reduction could have on the yield.

Although voluntary, the total or absolute reduction of emissions produced by the use of fertilizers has become a concern for many actors in the agricultural industry.

“They’ve set it as a voluntary target, but as an industry and as an agricultural sector, we take it very seriously when the government says, ‘We expect you to do this,’ because we know that if we don’t meet the expectations in the time frame, it’s entirely possible the government will decide to regulate,” Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, told The News.

Proud and his association are not against emissions cuts, but want a more detailed look at how the target will be met without decreasing current production rates.

“When you take an absolute position, that means…total emissions from fertilizer use must be reduced by 30% from 2020 levels. This limits the amount of fertilizer you can use… which will impact your productivity,” Proud said. “In Canada, we’ve already become very efficient, so there’s not a lot of wiggle room to reduce fertilizer use.

Stephen Vandervalk, Alberta vice-president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, is frustrated with the additional requirements producers will have to meet because of the target.

“I can’t even fathom what this means for my farm,” Vandervalk told The News. “It’s quite difficult for us in agriculture to do more… We need fertilizers. It’s a bit like asking a manufacturer to reduce their electricity by 30% – except it’s not about putting widgets you can take or leave, we’re talking about food. »

Vandervalk fears a decrease in the amount of food produced by Canadian farmers and the impact this will have globally.

“It will totally affect the amount of food grown,” he said. “It will increase in-store prices drastically. (Plus) other countries that need to import food wouldn’t have access to that food because we’re not going to grow it.

In a statement published in the News, the government confirmed that it has heard and understood growers’ concerns and is working with industry stakeholders to develop an approach that benefits both parties.

“Over the summer of 2021, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada engaged virtually with provinces and territories and 22 agricultural producer and producer associations. The ministry also received written comments from 12 stakeholders including a mix of provincial and national farm organizations,” the statement said. “AAFC will soon release a discussion paper on Reducing Fertilizer Emissions (which aims to) stimulate discussion and lead to a common understanding of the opportunities, barriers and challenges associated with achieving the goal of reducing emissions. fertilizer emissions.

One of the main topics that industry leaders like Fertilizer Canada would like to discuss is sustainable farming practices.

“One of the things we’ve raised with the government is that even in their accounting of emissions levels, they don’t take into account agricultural practices, like the 4Rs, in Canada,” Proud said. “So they only look at the amount of fertilizer used, not how that fertilizer is used. We know from scientific studies that Canada is actually very efficient in its use of fertilizers.

We are proud to hope that the discussion paper on reducing fertilizer emissions will shed light on the government’s emissions reduction strategy.

“The ad that came out at the end of 2020 took everyone by surprise,” Proud said. “There was absolutely no consultation before the government announced it… We need to make sure that all stakeholders are at the table and discussing a practical and pragmatic approach.”

AAFC said, “The Government of Canada will continue to work with industry to find solutions (and) contribute to meeting Canada’s 2030 GHG emissions reduction target and reaching net zero by 2050. »