Fertilizer emissions have garnered quite a bit of attention across Canada, and although this isn’t a new conversation, many questions still hang in the balance as the details get ironed out.
In 2020, the federal government stated it wanted to see a 30 per cent reduction in fertilizer emissions by the year 2030. Some producers and organizations have linked this target to total amount of fertilizer used, saying that to reduce emissions, farmers will have to reduce the amount of fertilizer they use on their crops. A reduction in fertilizer would naturally mean a reduction in yield, in a time where food scarcity and insecurity is high worldwide.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), has tried to address the above concerns, and stated the reduction target is not aimed at reducing the amount of fertilizer used on farm. Additionally, she says she doesn’t foresee this policy interfering with farm productivity.
Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, says she doesn’t believe the target is about banning fertilizer either, and says both of the statements made by Bibeau are reassuring.
“I think we’ve got a recognition from the government that it’s far more complex than they had originally thought, that they can’t put a cap on farm productivity, and that they really have to start working more on nutrient use efficiency in order to achieve that target,” says Proud.
Looking ahead and having gained some insight on the government’s intentions on fertilizer use and farm productivity, it has many wondering where we go from here. How can we possibly achieve those targets? Proud says the devil is in the details, and although they are yet to be defined, she hopes they lean in a voluntary and sustainable direction.
“I’d like to look at the at the target as more directional from governments. It’s our North Star. Let’s do everything we can to work towards that. I don’t know if ultimately, that’s what the government is going to land on. But I’d like to see that. I think what we really need to do is help farmers optimize their fertilizer use. In some cases, that’s about using more fertilizer. In other cases, it’s about using less. In other cases, it’s about different practices,” says Proud.
Something that she says needs more attention, or recognition, is the 4R program. If implemented by farmers, it has been shown to have a sizeable impact on reducing emissions, yet these practices aren’t currently being taken into consideration by the government, and how they are calculating emissions.
Fertilizer Canada is now in consultations with the government, says Proud, and will work to provide some direction as to the how’s of the target.
Check out the full conversation with Proud and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney, below: