LILLEY: Farmers feel ignored as Trudeau government pushes them to cut emissions

The agricultural industry maintains that the Trudeau government’s proposal would also reduce crop yields and profits.

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Anger over the Trudeau government’s plan to make farmers use less fertilizer has not boiled over in this country like it has in the Netherlands, but it is coming.

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Citing climate change as the reason, the government wants to see nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizers, not say, fertilizer use, reduced.

Farmers insist there is no difference, that the government’s measures will cause “serious economic damage,” including lost billions. Wheat Growers of Western Canada commissioned a report that said the plan would cost Alberta $2.95 billion, Saskatchewan $4.61 billion, and Manitoba $1.58 billion just in lost production from their canola and spring wheat crops.

In the Netherlands, the Rutte government’s decision to impose a 50% cut has sparked protests from farmers over the past two weeks with roadblocks, the closure of food distribution centers and protests in supermarkets.

If Trudeau and his advisers want to avoid a repeat of these tactics, they should start listening to Canada’s farmers, something the industry says hasn’t happened.

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“There was no prior consultation. No models or analysis have been provided to explain this 30% target. It seems to have been plucked out of nowhere,” an industry source said.

In fact, the reduction goal was not even developed by Agriculture Canada. It was the work of Environment and Climate Change Canada, which is why no farmer or industry groups were consulted. The government has made it clear that this plan is part of its strategy to fight climate change and bring Canada to Net Zero by 2030.

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“Agriculture was responsible for approximately 10% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2019, or 73 Mt of CO2,” a discussion paper of the states of Agriculture Canada.

The government has now set a national target “to reduce the absolute levels of GHG emissions arising from the application of fertilizers”, which is the exact opposite of what farmers have been telling them. Farm groups have been advocating for a reduction in emissions intensity, which means less nitrous oxide fertilizer per bushel of product.

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This would allow farmers to continue adjusting their best practices without seeing crop yields drop. If crop yields fall, farm incomes will also fall, but the prices families will pay at the grocery store will rise.

“Farmers don’t need the government to tell them how to use fertilizers correctly. We hire crop consultants, soil tests and use the latest technology available to us,” said Gunter Jochum, president of Wheat Growers, in response to the government proposal.

Farmers gather with their vehicles next to a border sign between Germany and the Netherlands during a protest on the A1 motorway near Rijssen against the Dutch government's nitrogen plans on June 29, 2022.
Farmers gather with their vehicles next to a border sign between Germany and the Netherlands during a protest on the A1 motorway near Rijssen against the Dutch government’s nitrogen plans on June 29, 2022. Photo by Vincent Jannink /ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Far from not wanting to do their part to reduce emissions, the group says they have already reached zero net emissions with farms in Canada absorbing more greenhouse gases than they generate each year. Yet the industry as a whole paints a picture of a government not listening, with industry representatives in various parts of the country saying they are moving forward without really engaging the people who will be affected by this.

The Trudeau government tends to have tunnel vision when it comes to climate change. Too often they don’t take off their green blinders to see the bigger picture and that seems to be happening here.

The government continues to call the 30% reduction target voluntary, but they once spent an entire election vowing not to raise the carbon tax before doing exactly that.

Farmers across Canada have every reason to be concerned about what lies ahead.

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