Economics still matter when driving change through sustainability programs


Governments across the world are crafting policy to influence industry practices with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian government is doing the same through programs such as the On-Farm Climate Action Fund and others. But how effective have these programs been and how do farmers see them influencing what practices they engage on the farm? Earlier this year, RealAgristudies partnered with the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) to dive into this topic.

When we asked farmers across the country how much impact existing programs and policies have on increasing the adoption of sustainable farming practices, only 12 per cent said “a lot.”  Additionally, 11 per cent said current programs and policies don’t impact practice adoption at all.

In the graphic below, you’ll see that 78 per cent responded that there is a little or very little impact with the current programming. From the perspective of those that say practices need to change, the current programs and policies are not moving the needle.


When we asked farmers across Canada to rate their level of agreement with a number of statements we found that farmers equally believe that past practices should be just as rewarded financially as future changes. Both of these scenarios were rated 4.34 out of 5.

Through our research and anecdotal conversations, we learned that farmers will change practices involving emission reductions if there is an economic return, but not just based on ideological belief. This is perhaps a missed opportunity for policy makers to tap into focusing on economic returns instead of largely on environmental benefits.

Farmers see themselves as great stewards of land and need to be convinced that practice changes impact their business positively. This is likely one of the reasons that the carbon tax has gone over so poorly in farm country — because there is no possibility of an ROI.

Learn more about RealAgristudies and becoming a member of the RealAgristudies Insight Panel here.

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