Proposed 30 per cent cut in nitrogen fertilizer uses would harm producers.
Ottawa—A Fertilizer Canada (FC) attempt to bring science into the debate over farm use of fertilizers has garnered support from agriculture groups.
And it has encouraged the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) to launch a public awareness campaign about the Environment Department’s proposed 30 per cent reduction in fertilizer emissions.
“The federal government has stated that they want to reduce fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent, but have no plan or details how to accomplish this,” says WCWGA President Gunter Jochum. “The department has not consulted with farmers or industry about the policy, which could only be achieved through a reduction in fertilizer use.”
Earlier this year, FC said the Department was taking a short-sighted approach to lowering greenhouse gas emissions that could reduce food production by introducing an absolute emissions reduction of 30 per cent, rather than a more constructive emissions intensity reduction. That proposal “will have considerable impact on Canadian farmers’ incomes and reduce overall Canadian exports and GDP.”
A more sensible approach would be for the government to adopt FC’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship plan to make more efficient use of fertilizer and “deliver outcomes that are better for the environment and for farmers.” It should start by creating a national committee to work with farmers and the fertilizer industry to increase uptake of 4R, which emphasizes careful fertilizer use.
Crosby Devitt, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said his group wants a science-based approach to policy and regulations. “We continue to work with Fertilizer Canada to ensure that the federal government understands the impact of fertilizer emission reduction on our food system. We are glad to see groups across Canada enter discussions with our government and push for increased food production education with the ultimate goal of a thriving food system and economy.”
Jochum said the 30 per cent absolute emission reduction approach would mean a farmer with 1,000 acres of canola and 1,000 acres of wheat would have their profit reduced by $38,000 to $40,500 annually.
“Canada has a safe, reliable, high quality, food security system and these type of policy changes put our system in danger. Canadian grain farmers provide food for Canadians and many export markets around the world. Reductions in production put this in jeopardy.”
Without safe use of fertilizers, Canada cannot produce enough crops to make bread, pasta, cooking oil and hundreds of other foods. “It also means reduced crops for exports and less profits for farmers. They’re making these fool-hardy decisions without the science to support them,” he said.
WCWGA will work hard to stop this policy “by speaking directly to the elected and bureaucrats who are trying to implement it. We’ll travel to Ottawa, speak at Commons committee meetings, meet with the media and explain what’s wrong with these actions.”
The government is committed to achieving $75 billion in agriculture exports by 2025, which can’t happen if nitrogen fertilizer use is cut by 30 per cent.
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.