Producers want to be included when the federal government decides how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially those from fertilizer use
Alberta wheat farmers are asking for a say in how Ottawa meets federal greenhouse gas emissions targets in the agricultural sector, particularly when it comes to commercial fertilizer use.
At its annual general meeting in January, the Alberta Wheat Board passed a resolution demanding that the AWC and like-minded crop boards be included in discussions with the federal government on what emissions absolute GHG values imply and how the reference date will be set for the calculation. future reductions.
The federal government has already set a voluntary target to reduce agricultural emissions from fertilizer use by 30% over the next eight years.
Ottawa hasn’t indicated how it intends to achieve that goal, but some industry observers are concerned that the “voluntary” goal could become a “mandatory mandate” achieved through regulated restrictions on the use of agricultural fertilizers.
Ottawa has not indicated whether the reduction will be achieved through an absolute 30% reduction in fertilizer applications, or whether the reductions can be achieved through technologies or emission reduction programs, such as the adoption of technologies application of variable rate fertilizer or adherence to the principles outlined in the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program.
A federal mandate requiring an absolute reduction in fertilizer use would have a “catastrophic impact” on farm yields and profitability, according to the AWC.
“I think we’re still trying to understand the intent of the Government of Canada on this, whether or not it’s an absolute reduction (in fertilizer use) or a goal of reduction in emissions,” said AWC CEO Tom Steve.
“So far we haven’t had a lot of clarity on that.”
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about this, but obviously if farmers are required to reduce their fertilizer use by 30% by 2030, it would have a catastrophic impact on yields and competitiveness,” he said. -he adds.
“The reason this came up (is) a lot of growers have already adopted a lot of things like variable rate (fertilizer technologies) and so on…so if they (Ottawa) set a baseline date of 2020 …that could leave a lot of growers who have already adopted new technologies,” added Michael Bury, an Alberta wheat farmer, who introduced the resolution.
“(These farmers) could end up with the bag and (would) not be able to achieve these goals.”
Last year, a report prepared by accounting firm Meyers Norris Penney suggested that Canadian farmers would lose $48 billion in income over the next eight years if the federal government went ahead with plans to cut 30 % greenhouse gas emissions from on-farm fertilizer use.
The report, titled Implications of a Total Emissions Reduction Target on Fertilizer, states that achieving a 30% reduction in agricultural emissions through a gradual reduction in actual fertilizer use would result in annual farm income losses ranging from $1.8 billion in 2023 to $10.4 billion in 2030. .
The report was commissioned by Fertilizer Canada, an organization that represents fertilizer manufacturers, wholesale distributors and retailers.
In a subsequent interview, Fertilizer Canada President Karen Proud said meeting Ottawa’s 30% reduction target “would require a reduction in fertilizer use.”
“There is no other way at this point to achieve this,” she said.
Proud said Ottawa set its GHG reduction target without consulting affected industries and without performing economic analysis.
“These targets were set without any consultation, with the agricultural sector, with industries that support the agricultural sector or even with provincial governments…,” she said.
In a recent address to the AWC, Alberta Agriculture Minister Nate Horner said Alberta Agriculture is hoping for clarity in a report being prepared by the government. federal.
Horner said provincial agriculture ministers made it clear at a recent federal-provincial agricultural policy summit that any reduction in fertilizer emissions must be achieved through technology, not at the expense of profitability. farmers.
“If that’s going to be the goal, we have to go that route with technology and it can’t come at the expense of performance,” Horner said.
Horner said some provincial ministers who attended recent federal-provincial agriculture policy meetings were frustrated with the lack of clarity on how Ottawa plans to meet its emissions reduction targets.
“It was very frustrating…because it felt like they were sometimes talking out of their mouths around their overall goal of reducing fertilizer emissions, but also making it very clear that Canada is one of the few jurisdictions that could create more food than it consumes and that we have an obligation to the world to produce more food,” said Horner.
Canadian farmers have already made significant contributions to reducing greenhouse gases, using variable-rate fertilizer technology and adopting no-till farming practices, he added.
“We’re already doing a lot of these things, so a lot of the low hanging fruit has already been picked, so to speak.”