National Newswatch

The 4R program has been shown to reduce emissions.


Ottawa-A proposed carbon offset program developed by Environment Canada makes no mention of a fertilizer management initiative that’s been credited with reducing carbon emissions from farms.

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Protocol is recognized in both Canada and the United States for its success in reducing carbon emissions. 4R stands for the Right Source @ the Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place and is the centrepiece of the Nutrient Stewardship initiatives launched by Fertilizer Canada (FC) a decade ago.

McKenzie Smith, FC’s Director of Stewardship and Regulatory Affairs, says her organization was surprised when 4R wasn’t included in a discussion paper on the offset program released by Environment Canada during the summer as part of the federal government’s carbon pollution pricing system.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the Department,” she said. Her organization is preparing an appeal of Environment Canada’s move that surprised a wide swath of farm groups including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and Grain Farmers of Ontario that have criticized the decision.

Ontario and the Prairie provinces use 4R in their climate smart programs, she said. Encouraging its use is a big opportunity to make progress in reducing carbon emissions and encourage careful use of fertilizers by farmers.

A Dalhousie University study released two years ago said farmers who follow 4R best practices can achieve up a 35 per cent reduction in their carbon emissions. David Burton, a nitrous oxide researcher, said, “While nitrous oxide emission reduction is based on climate and soil, the flexibility of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework allows growers from any region to maximize the results of their nutrient management practices, thus achieving a reduction rate of up to 35 per cent.”

“The agriculture sector contributes 36 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions; research has confirmed that the implementation of the 4R Climate-Smart Protocol can significantly reduce that.” Burton’s findings came from three years of extensive research by nine scientists across the country.

While critical of the 4R omission, CFA welcomed the Department’s inclusion of a number of proposed agriculture protocols on Soil Organic Carbon and Livestock manure management included in the discussion paper.

However, it also failed to mention credit stacking that would allow farmers to generate offset credits for habitat protection projects, said Frank Annau, CFA’s environment spokesman. Farm groups will continue to push for this policy.

“There is a growing awareness in Canada of the relationship between agricultural production and environmental issues,” he said. “Canadian farmers are aware of their responsibilities and are taking positive steps to ensure the environmental sustainability of their industry.

“Canadian producers are concerned about maintaining competitiveness as they face the prospect of higher costs for inputs due to carbon pricing,” he said. “Agriculture must be recognized as an offsetting sector to mitigate the impacts of carbon pricing across the value chain and prevent Canadian products from becoming less competitive internationally. Many of our competitors such as Australia and the U.S. have no plans to institute carbon pricing and most of Canada’s agricultural exports are priced globally.”

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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