Farmers and the federal government have, historically, been at loggerheads over the issue of climate change mitigation. Farmers care about the environment but government action has typically been with the stick, not the carrot. There’s been little incentive for farmers to do more of the things that sequester carbon, improve biodiversity or restore natural areas, except for their own inclination to do so.
A new ag group wants to change that.
Farmers for Climate Solutions wants farmers and the feds on the same side when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The coalition is largely compiled of regional and provincial industry players, especially on the organic side, and includes the National Farmers Union and the Ontario Sheep Farmers. Farmers for Climate Solutions saw a niche and a need for a farmer-led, farmer-represented voice, presenting solutions and ideas.
Their proposal to the feds ahead of the spring budget is pretty straightforward, said director Karen Ross. It relies on tried-and-true practices like planting cover crops and preserving wetlands. But where it differs is in the incentives: reverse auctions for farmers to preserve wetlands; payment programs for farmers to plant cover crops; and cost-sharing for other environmental benefits.
“(Farmers are) first and foremost business people, who want to steward the land,” Ross said. But they don’t want to take care of the environment at the expense of their own businesses. It hardly seems fair that farmers should shoulder the costs of societal benefits for no other reason than because they live out in the country, or own lots of land. The $300-million proposal that they want Ontario to fund, could cut agricultural emissions by 10 mega-tonnes , according to the group’s analysis.
There’s been plenty of investment by various governments in other industries, she said. Not so much in agriculture. “What we found out was, it’s actually really cost-effective to invest in farmers to reduce emissions.”