Regulated fertilizer reduction would cost Canadian farmers $48 billion by 2030: report

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Fertilizer Canada has released details of a report, compiled by Meyers Norris Penny (MNP), that aims to outline the significant impact a regulated reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use would have on farmers’ bottom lines.

The Government of Canada has announced an “aspirational” goal of 30 per cent absolute emissions reduction target for on-farm fertilizer use by the year 2030. While the government has not announced that the reduction will be achieved through regulatory restrictions on fertilizer use, MNP’s report explores what the potential outcome would be to the farm economy if it did.

Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, explains that MNP used European regulations — a 20 per cent reduction in fertilizer use to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in emissions —as the basis for a model on how Canadian rules may work.

The result is a staggering total income loss of $48 billion by 2030, and a significant shift in how much product Canada would have available to fulfill its domestic needs or sell on the international marketplace.

In the executive summary of the report, MNP’s research suggests that by 2030, yield gaps for three major crops are estimated at 23.6 bushels per acre per year for canola, 67.9 bushels per acre per year for corn, and 36.1 bushels per acre per year for spring wheat. Given constant prices, the total value of lost production grows to $10.4 billion per year by 2030.

Proud says this isn’t the route Fertilizer Canada wants to see the government take, and instead is urging the government to recognize 4R Nutrient Stewardship as the standard in nutrient management and a key component to achieving on-farm emissions reductions from fertilizer use. As currently proposed, the federal government’s UN-compliant accounting of emissions would not recognize practices at the farm level that reduce emissions per unit of fertilizer.

Related: 2030 target creating uncertainty around the future of fertilizer use

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