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Canadian soil health at risk: Senate report

Climate change, extreme weather events, pollution and urbanization are damaging Canadian soil, and are threatening food security, the environment and millions of livelihoods, according to a new report by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. 

Critical Ground: Why Soil is Essential to Canada’s Economic, Environmental, Human, and Social Health digs deep into the critical role of soil in mitigating climate change, contributing to biodiversity and putting food on tables. The committee is urging the federal government to lead the way in protecting this vital national resource.  

Soil is the foundation of Canada’s agriculture system and a key economic driver. In 2022, agricultural and food product exports totalled nearly $93 billion. However, the committee heard that there is a lack of awareness of the value of soil, and that education is crucial to changing perceptions of farming in Canada.   

The report highlights concerns from farmers, ranchers, producers and soil health experts about the unprecedented challenges to growing food. Floods, droughts, wildfires and the loss of farmland are among the many causes of soil degradation across the country.   

The committee learned of many soil management practices that can help maintain soil health, but there is no “one-size-fits-all approach,” as soil and climate vary across the country. It is also difficult to analyze soil health data because governments, academic institutions, organizations and industry groups do not have a common means of gathering and sharing this information. The committee is recommending long-term funding for soil mapping and data aggregation across the country. 

The report makes 25 recommendations to the federal government to work with the Canadian agricultural and forestry sectors, as well as municipal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments, to tackle soil degradation and preservation aggressively. The committee strongly believes that soil must be a national policy priority to help fight climate change and feed future generations.   

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