OTTAWA — Ottawa’s radical plan to put agriculture on a strict fertilizer diet will end up costing Canadian farmers big bucks in lost income.
That’s the upshot of a recent fertilizer industry report that takes aim at the Trudeau regime’s intended 30% cut in on-farm fertilizer greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — which could mean a 20% reduction in the actual amount of fertilizer used if the Canadian government adopts a European Union formula.
Bottom line: Curtailing fertilizer usage by 20% could cost Canadian grain and oilseed growers nearly $48 billion in lost sales because of lower yields over the next eight years. Average annual exports of canola and wheat would likewise drop by a combined 14 million tonnes by 2030 — nearly eliminating Canadian canola from the international market altogether.
Fertilizer Canada commissioned the report from prominent business advisory and accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny. It was released in September.
“When the federal government announced a 30% emission reduction target for on-farm fertilizer use it did so without consulting — the provinces, the agricultural sector, or any key stakeholders — on the feasibility of such a target,” said Karen Proud, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada. “This study shows that we need to work together to find practical and pragmatic solutions for emissions reductions, without causing economic devastation to our agricultural sector.”
Said Proud: “We do not have to choose between the environment and the economy.”
Should Canada adopt the EU fertilizer formula, the potential economic impact would devastate Canadian farmers, according to Fertilizer Canada, which insists that any plan to reduce emissions must not risk this country’s contribution to global food supply or economic growth within the agricultural sector.
The organization instead favours as a better option its existing 4R Nutrient Stewardship best management program that promotes applying the Right Source (of fertilizer) at the Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place. If 80 to 90% of farmers took part, the 15-year-old program would achieve the same 30% emissions reduction the government wants, according to Cassandra Cotton, Sustainability Vice President at Fertilizer Canada.
Precisely when team Trudeau proceeds with its plan — and whether it includes the feared European formula and a hard 20% usage cut — remains unclear. Cotton said her organization expects to learn more when the government releases an anticipated white paper in a month and a half. “They’re saying it’s going to be voluntary,” she said.
“The only thing we know is they are looking to produce an absolute emissions reduction targeting agriculture.”
South Mountain-area dairy farmer Yann Bossel suggested government “should stay out of fertilizer use,” noting the marketplace is governing the issue anyway.
“In the last five years, we have seen an explosion of GPS technology, coupled with variable rate applications, and cover-crop use,” said Bossel. “Governments are much slower to act than the market. With the tripling of land values, equipment values, and fertilizer values the market already reacted to pinpoint use of fertilizers.”