Original Published on Aug 30, 2022 at 08:28

By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Canada West Foundation hosted a webinar on Monday, August 22 with a panel of  guests to discuss the introduction to cut fertilizer emissions by  30-percent over the decade as part of the Canadian Government’s Emission  Reduction Plan.

 The panel was hosted by Gary Mar, CEO and  President of Canada West Foundation, including a panel of guests to talk  on emissions reduction, sustainable farming practices and food  production in relation to the Canadian Government’s plans on cutting  emissions.

 Nate Horner, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture, who  was among the panel, included background from the talks in July where  the federal and provincial ministers signed the Sustainable Canadian  Agricultural Partnership Agreement to fund emission reduction  activities.

 “As a province we desperately wanted to see more  funding from the feds be brought to the table. They did bring the  funding forward, because we know they have real aspirations on the  emissions, the climate side, and making sure that the money connects  with those pursuits,” said Horner. “Producers wanted to have a better  understanding about what it meant. They wanted to know that there would  be recognition for the good work that already happened. They wanted to  know that it wouldn’t be voluntary or aspirational, and then turn into  something else.”

 Alanna Koch, board chair of Global Institute for  Food Security, and former Deputy Minister of Agriculture in  Saskatchewan under Brad Wall’s government, said these talks showed a  unity of provinces.

 “The Federal Government tries to divide and  conquer. I was very impressed that the provinces were able to hold the  line and work together. Focused on seeing agriculture grow, and being  practical with solutions for farmers,” said Koch.

 Farmers have  made strides to reduce emissions across the board on their farms. Nevin  Rosaasen, with Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, noted five major  technologies that mitigate fertilizer emissions.

 “There are  specific technologies and beneficial management practices farmers have  already adopted which have greatly reduced fertilizer emissions. There  are five key practices. Number one, our nutrient stewardship program.  Number two, in terms of the impact, the sectional control technology.  Number three, the variable rate technology that’s employed by quite a  few farmers across the prairies. Number four, environmentally smart  nitrogen and nitrification inhibitors. And number five, the sound  agronomic crop rotations that include pulses,” said Rosaasen, also  noting the biggest increase overall in crop emissions over time has  actually come from transportation, when the prairies went from 6,000  delivery points to less than 220, since 1980.

 “The railways  abandoned tertiary and secondary lines, resulting in all of those  efficient rail emissions being converted to farmer truck emissions. The  railways and grain companies effectively transferred their emissions to  the back of farmers.”

 Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, a farmer in  Saskatchewan, says the approach to cutting emissions has been  frustrating and lacks knowledge about how the industry is run.

  “The condescending approach that we’ve seen from the government is  frustrating. I could understand people outside of the agriculture  industry not being fully aware of all of the new technology that farmers  have adapted, because there’s a lot of it. What I don’t appreciate is,  it feels to me like the government has come out, had a dream wanting to  be better environmentalists, with a list of their ideas and solutions…  without fully comprehending, understanding, and consulting with farmers  about what we’re doing today,” said Jolly-Nagel. “Their information in  their baseline of what we’re doing today is completely off. They’re not  fully understanding,” noting that farmers do soil testing to find out  nutrients that are available in the soil and what needs to be added.

 When considering how much fertilizer to use each year, they use crop rotations to get the best results.

  “Every zone within our field needs a different fertilizer prescription.  We are very, very careful when it comes to how much fertilizer is put  down.”

 Koch also notes a lot of misunderstandings have tainted  the perception of fertilizers and pesticides, noting how sustainable  crop rotation helps improve soil health and comes from not overusing  inputs.

 “Canadian farmers have been making meaningful emission  reductions on farms for decades, while growing more food consistently on  the same land base. This has to be fundamental. There can’t be a  reduction in emissions at all costs, because we’re being asked to feed  the world,” said Koch.

 Mar joked that maybe every farmer should  adopt a member of Parliament who has never actually stepped foot on a  farm, to come out and see how its done. But his notion is not far  fetched. In an industry that puts food from farm to table, when changes  are handled incorrectly the effects to our supply can be drastic.

  “I hope at the end of this is, we have a government who can give us a  thumbs up and say we’re really worried about the environment, but one  thing we don’t have to worry about is the way our producers produce  food,” said Jolly-Nagel.

This item reprinted with permission from the Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta