Federal report deals blow to Ottawa's war on farmers

For years, Ottawa has prophetically worshiped cuts to fertilizer emissions by 30% below 2020 levels. They ascertained keeping agriculture emissions at 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But a federal report says reducing fertilizer use will not change net emissions by 2030.

Federal report deals blow to Ottawa's war on farmers
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A recent federal report on fertilizer use may sound the death knell in Justin Trudeau’s war against farmers.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) published a report titled 'Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollutant Emissions Projections – 2023,' which articulates that Ottawa has failed to propose effective agricultural policies to reduce emissions.

For years, Ottawa has prophetically worshiped cuts to fertilizer emissions by 30% below 2020 levels. They ascertained keeping agriculture emissions status quo at 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

But the Greenhouse Gas report states that reducing fertilizer use will not change net emissions by the year 2030. Agrologist Robert Saik testified against the 30% emissions reduction during an October 2022 Environment Committee hearing.

“It’s recognized that Canada produces about 1.6% of the global emissions. Agriculture is about 10% of Canada’s emissions, and fertilizer is 17% of agriculture’s emissions or 1.75% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “If we reduce our emissions by 30% in Canada from all fertilizer sources, it will amount to 0.0028%.”

According to Stuart Smyth, associate professor in agricultural and resource economics at the University of Saskatchewan, the ECCC did not use factual information when setting the target. He called it an "unscientific" appeal to voters that "[doesn't have] the agriculture industry's best interests at hand." 

A 15% reduction is possible using existing efficiency methods, said a report titled, 'Planning to Fail: A Case Study of Canada's Fertilizer-Based Emission Target.' But the remaining cut would have to come from reduced fertilizer use.

Still, Environment Canada spokesperson Samuel Lafontaine defended their projections in a request for comment by True North.

“In the Emissions Projections Report EPR emissions reductions of policies and measures are estimated as a difference in projected emissions in a specific year (e.g. 2030) between a ‘business as usual’ scenario where the program is not implemented versus a scenario where the program exists, rather than a difference in sector’s emissions in a projected year versus sector’s current emissions,” said LaFontaine. 

“Thus, the estimated emissions reduction impacts referred to in the ERP for the Agriculture sector are simply the difference between projected 2030 emissions in the Reference Case and Additional Measures Case.”

LaFontaine admitted the target would only procure a four-metric-ton reduction in emissions, reported True North.

“These 4 Mt of reductions are collectively attributable to the Agricultural Clean Tech Program and methane emissions reductions from the On Farm Climate Action Fund that were modelled, as well as the fertilizer emissions reductions,” explained LaFontaine.

The report follows controversy at Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) last November, who walked back a report endorsing the 30% reductions in fertilizer emissions.

"The Department published a 'What We Heard Report' compiling the feedback received, which will inform AAFC’s work in collaboration with the sector, towards meeting the target of a 30% reduction of fertilizer use from 2020 levels by 2030,” reads the report, 2022-2023 Departmental Results Report that contained the discrepancy. 

But the AAFC contends there is no mandatory reduction in fertilizer use for farmers.

"The Government of Canada wants to be clear that it is not imposing a 30% reduction in fertilizer use," said AAFC spokesperson Samantha Seary. "This is in fact an error, which will be corrected in our Departmental Results Report. We would like to apologize for any confusion this may have caused," she added.

The report by the University of Calgary's 'Planning to Fail' concludes a 30% reduction in fertilizer emissions would only be possible with drastic cuts to fertilizer use. "The proposed target [is] unachievable without drastic reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use," wrote researchers, adding it jeopardizes the economic viability of farming.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities estimated that Western Canadian farmers could lose $841 million in revenues should the target be met. But Seary corrected the record, claiming their goal is to enhance crop yields, while reducing emissions.

"Any plan to reduce agricultural emissions will not impose restrictions on the amount of fertilizer that Canadian farmers use, nor will it limit Canada’s ability to maximize food production," added Departmental Results. The AAFC spokesperson stressed the importance of nitrogen fertilizer in maintaining higher crop yields.

But documents obtained by True North contravened that statement, as a deputy minister at AAFC claimed the feds want to "reduce fertilizer use" altogether.

Additionally, internal AAFC documents show the feds considered a "regulatory backstop" similar to the carbon tax to maintain their 2030 emission targets. 

In March 2022, Trudeau told farmers not to believe the web of "disinformation and misinformation" circulating social media. "I want to be clear; we are consulting with farmers in the industry about a voluntary, not mandatory reduction in emissions from fertilizer, not in the use of fertilizers," he clarified.

"I know there’s a bit of misinformation out there around going after farmers around fertilizer. That’s not what we are doing," said the Prime Minister. "There’s some concern about what’s happening in Europe, the Netherlands particularly but that’s not what we’re doing."

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