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Federal fertilizer emissions targets unrealistic, says study

Canada must balance emissions targets against food security

Canada’s agricultural producers cannot afford to meet federal fertilizer emissions reduction targets without reducing yields, says a new study.

To reduce fertilizer emissions by the government’s 30 per cent target by 2030 without compromising yields “would impose significant costs on Canada’s crop produces and potentially damage the financial health of Canada’s crop production sector,” says a summary of the report commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada.

“Significant emission reductions are possible, but we must be realistic and not jeopardize food security and the financial security of Canadian farmers.”

The report shows that a 14 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer can be achieved without jeopardizing food security through the adoption of “aggressive but attainable” best management practices.

“In a time when global food security is on the rise, Canada must balance its fertilizer emission reduction goals with the need to increase vital food production,” says a news release accompanying the study.

“We support the federal government’s strong push to reduce Canada’s (greenhouse gas) emissions, but we cannot sacrifice food productivity,” says Fertilizer Canada president and CEO Karen Proud in a statement. “The approach to 2030 must be realistic, balance agricultural emission reductions with food production, and remain voluntary.”

Agriculture analysts estimated that by adopting attainable best management practices farm incomes could be boosted by $4.3 billion by 2030 while the cost to implement the practices would be $495 million a year.

The level and types of management practices will vary by region and the federal government was urged to work with provinces, farm groups and the fertilizer industry to tailor programs and policies. The way emissions data is collected needs to be improved and targets should be based on an intensity-based approach rather than an absolute reduction, the study says.

Olds-area farmer and past-president of the Grain Growers of Canada Jeff Nielsen said the study reflects what many farmers have felt for a long time.

“We have to ensure that our message is that we’re sound managers and responsible for our products,” he said.

Nielsen said producers are trying to educate the government about the challenges facing agriculture while being faced with new restrictions.

“Work with us to allow us the best ways to move forward,” is their message to government, he said.

“It’s a partnership. We all want to do better with the environment.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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