Working group to study farm fertilizer emission reduction ideas

  • National Newswatch

Government must work with farmers on emissions reduction.Ottawa—A working group of government and agriculture representatives will be formed to look for ways to reduce farm fertilizer emissions without harming productivity, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says.The group will consider more than 2,000 submissions received through online consultations, technical workshops and town hall meetings held between last March and October, Bibeau said.Her officials studied all the input and came up with a What We Heard Report that will inform the working group's search for solutions to the government's goal of cutting fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and creating new economic opportunities for crop growers.Among the top objectives outlined by the report are increasing adoption of Beneficial Management Practices with decreased upfront costs and demonstration of their success and profitability on the farm.As well there should be backing for innovation to help the sector on a path forward including financial support and improved infrastructure along with improved measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer application, with minimal reporting burden for growers and open data sharing while protecting data privacy, the report said.The government should engage frequently with farmers, involving them directly in research efforts to use their deep knowledge and experience of their soils, landscape and farming practices.Keith Currie, President of the Canadian federation of Agriculture, said the report shows there “is clearly a diversity of perspectives on many key issues, and we are pleased to see the report identify the importance of further producer engagement in advancing this voluntary approach.“At the same time, we are pleased to see the report highlight the key themes we continue to explore in the context of the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy such as the importance of data capturing regional variation and accurately depicting on-farm emissions, and the need for robust incentives to effectively support adoption of best practices,” he said. “Most importantly, we are pleased to see the report factor in producer profitability, reflecting the need to consider emissions reduction strategies in the context of environmental, economic, and social sustainability.”Grain Growers of Canada said it will not be easy to develop policy and programs to achieve widespread success. Agriculture Canada “must work closely with farmers throughout policy development. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meeting this target, and many individual farm-level variables will impact what solutions work for each farmer.”Bibeau said the government will keep supporting the agricultural sector's efforts “to become more and more sustainable by investing in practices that are effective in reducing emissions and regenerating soil. The comments received last year “will contribute to how we reach our ambitious target and ensure the sector's success.”Karen Proud, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, welcomed “the universal support of 4R Nutrient Stewardship. We look forward to continuing to work with the government and producers to improve measurement and accelerate the adoption of 4R Best Management Practices, which reduce emissions and increases productivity.”The Wheat We Heard report said many respondents recognized the need to act on climate change and the opportunity to reduce emissions from nitrogen fertilizer application. At the same time, improving recognition for the role that farmers already play in promoting sustainability and taking action to reduce emissions was identified as a clear priority.There was strong support keeping global food security top of mind and that Canada has an important role to play in feeding the world. Measures to reduce fertilizer emissions have to consider producer profitability and yield, the report said.Knowledge transfer, education, and in-person outreach can play a major role in the adoption of practices to reduce fertilizer emissions. It is also vital to recognize the diverse soil and climactic conditions across the nation. More localized data and increased extension services would assist farmers in adopting nitrogen management practices.A significant number of respondents preferred an intensity-based reduction in emissions rather than an absolute emissions reduction, the report said.