Federal and provincial co-operation vital to agriculture sustainability success

Ottawa—Making agriculture sustainability work in Canada will require the federal and provincial governments to follow the example set in their current five year agriculture partnership (SCAP), says a report from the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI).As agriculture is one of three areas that Ottawa and the provinces have a shared responsibility for, the federal government could set mandatory national sustainability targets and performance standards, said the report authored by CAPI board member Grace Skogstad.The provinces would be responsible for implementing and enforcing those standards and targets, she said. They would likely agree to the standards and targets if they have a role in setting them, Ottawa foots a large portion of the costs of their implementation and enforcement and the standards are important to the competitiveness and access of Canadian agrifood products to international markets.Ottawa could independently decide to meet the first two conditions as part of its Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (SAS), and thereby enhance the ambitions of all governments with respect to mutually established objectives and targets. However, making this workable will require the two levels of government to keep within their lanes- with the federal government focused on using its resources in research, analysis and international aspects, and governments drawing on their resources and networks more oriented to on-farm implementation, she said.There is a strong incentive for this co-operative approach in the growing international support for sustainability standards in the food trade and reducing agriculture GHG emissions.So far, Canada has eschewed the EU's use of cross-compliance requirements that require farmers receiving funding under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to comply with EU environmental standards regarding soil organic matter and soil structure, maintaining permanent grassland, protecting biodiversity, and managing water resources.Skogstad noted that SCAP requires producers with allowable net sales of at least $1 million to complete an environmental risk assessment to be able to receive government AgriInvest contributions. The U.S. practice of tying eligibility for federal farm programs and subsidies to conservation practices has not been broadly taken up in Canada.The federal government has set five goals for its SAS. They are:-building the agriculture sector's resilience to short and long term climate impacts while maintaining growth in its productive capacity;-improving the agriculture sector's environmental performance-providing an important contribution to the national reduction of GHG emissions;-developing a more comprehensive and integrated approach, across policy, programming, and partners in the value chain, to addressing agrienvironmental issues;-dealing with data gaps and capacity to measure, report on, and track the environmental performance of the sector.Skogstad said progress of the progress on the five goals will require the cooperation of the provinces and farm organizations. She is optimistic the three parties will continue to work together to achieve the identified goals.