Farmers blast Ottawa's 'unscientific' fertilizer policy for ignoring impact on crop yield

According to Stuart Smyth, associate professor in agricultural and resource economics, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) did not use factual information when setting a 30% fertilizer reduction target.

Farmers blast Ottawa's 'unscientific' fertilizer policy for ignoring impact on crop yield
Rebel News
Remove Ads

Western Canadian farmers continue to press Ottawa over its "unscientific" fertilizer policy — this time, they're hammering the feds on its harm to food production.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers (WCWG) accused the federal government of basing their 30% fertilizer emissions reduction target on ideology, not science. 

WCWG President Gunter Jochum conveyed his disappointment with Ottawa for never considering how the policy would impact farm yields. 

"More and more government departments are failing to deliver on their mandates and are being ideologically captured," said Jochum.

According to Stuart Smyth, associate professor in agricultural and resource economics, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) did not use factual information when setting a 30% fertilizer reduction target.

"If they're just looking at total pounds used … with the amount of land we're farming, the only way we'd achieve that is to farm less land or use less fertilizer," said Smyth. "There's more fertilizer being used because we're farming more acres."

Trudeau's reduction target — first announced in 2020 — adds additional strain on farmers because while a reduction up to 15% is possible using existing efficiency methods, the remaining cut would have to come from reduced fertilizer use. 

"The absence of empirical data to support emission reduction targets is concerning, as the lack of data and evidence, coupled with the absence of reliable and complete baseline data, establishes the conditions for unrealistic economic and environmental targets," said Smyth.

The associate professor claimed the fertilizer targets are merely an "unscientific" appeal to voters. He also accused the ECCC of "[not having] the agriculture industry's best interests at hand." 

"We see this in Agriculture Canada and now in the office of the Chief Science Advisor," added Jochum. "At a time of food insecurity and skyrocketing consumer prices for basic food staples, to fail to consider the impact on the food supply of fertilizer reductions is frankly appalling. "

The WCWG president responded to a February 2 testimony by the federal government's Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, who told Conservative MP Dan Mazier that Ottawa did not consult her on whether the voluntary target for farmers would impact Canada's food supply. Her mandate is to give " advice on science-related issues and government policies."

"You have not personally seen any scientific reports or studies to suggest that the government's 30% fertilizer emissions target can be met without decreasing food production. Is that correct?" asked Mazier. 

"I have not," replied Nemer.

"You have not seen any science on that?" said Mazier. 

"Well, I haven't seen any report on that," said Nemer. 

Smyth's study on fertilizer use from roughly 70 farmers across 1991/94 and 2016/19 observed a 44% increase in fertilizer use. Farmers converted 7.2 million acres of summer fallow to crop production, with total crop production rising from 1.3 billion bushels to 2.1 billion bushels.

Smyth claimed farmers used more fertilizer but applied it differently in 2016/19, using in-crop and with-seed applications at different rates. They also sequestered carbon and reduced emissions by removing summer fallow.

"Farmers are already deeply incentivized to make our operations sustainable," said Jochum in a December statement. "We want to produce the most outputs, with the fewest inputs, and keep our operations going long enough to pass them to our children and grandchildren."

"That's the definition of sustainability."

According to the study, "Using an emissions-intensity approach that considers the increase in crop production, the data indicates that although crop farmers in Saskatchewan might not have reduced their potential N2O emission levels per bushel of grain, they have significantly raised yields to keep up with the growing global food and commodity demand."

"The 22% increase in Sask­atchewan cropland due to the removal of summer fallow is a large contributor to the increase in fertilizer use, making the simple comparison of absolute fertilizer use between the periods irrelevant, as the 7.2 million acres of additional cropland between 1991/94 and 2016/19 accounts for 44% of the total increase in fertilizer use in Saskatchewan."

However, Smyth said the crop yields bolstered the percentage of nitrogen by 29%, highlighting the challenge of meeting the ECCC target.

"Without government regulations, directives, mandates, targets, whatever you want to put in there, farmers have significantly increased their fertilizer efficiency," he added. 

"Bureaucrats need to [know] what's changed at the farm level. We must gather this data and tell these stories to better inform policymakers about what is happening."

Jochum said that while Ottawa claimed its fertilizer target is a "voluntary goal," he noted they also said not meeting their target "is not an option."

"Will the proposed emission cut reduce greenhouse gasses?" he asked. "It will reach approximately 0.0028% of total greenhouse gasses [internationally]. Is this even worth it?" 

Remove Ads
Remove Ads

  • By Sheila Gunn Reid

PETITION: Stop The War On Farmers

7,709 signatures
Goal: 10,000 Signatures

Add signature

Don't Get Censored

Big Tech is censoring us. Sign up so we can always stay in touch.

Remove Ads