I am pleased to have joined federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture last week in Saskatoon for an annual meeting that has brought agreement on several important issues including a new five-year Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership with a 25 per cent increase in its cost-shared portion. We also agreed on improvements to business risk management programs, such as an increase in the AgriStability compensation rate to 80 per cent from 70 per cent, for better economic sustainability.
Another aspect of the new agreement is a targeted three- to five-megaton reduction in greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. However, though a reduction in GHG emissions would be a positive step and is a priority for the Manitoba government, a new federal requirement for a 30 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 through the agricultural sector’s use of nutrients is based on broad assumptions that do not account for improvements already made by Manitoba farmers.
A report by MNP for Fertilizer Canada states that a 30 per cent reduction in such emissions would require a 20 per cent reduction in the use of nutrients, which would equate to lower crop yields for Manitoba producers and hurt value-added businesses. A reduction in nutrients would also make increasingly expensive groceries even more costly and pose a risk to Manitoba jobs in agriculture and food processing.
Reducing emissions is the right path to take, though I strongly believe a more targeted approach that considers the state of change already adopted by Manitoba producers and the cost-benefit of specific changes to reduce GHGs is crucial.
Manitoba producers have been proactive in reducing the unnecessary use of nutrients and continue to make changes as beneficial management practices have evolved. Partnerships between producers, governments and the nutrient industry are an important tool to support change. For example, in Manitoba, the 4R approach to nutrient use has long been promoted and practised:
- right source for the soil type, conditions and crop;
- right rate to achieve production goals, based on soil nutrients available and what the crop needs;
- right place where the nutrient is applied relative to the crop type; and
- right time for nutrient loss risks, how a crop uses nutrients, crop uptake and logistics.
Manitoba was the first Prairie province to complete the 4R memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Fertilizer Canada, and our province has worked with Keystone Agricultural Producers and Fertilizer Canada to promote 4R principles and practices since 2013 through a series of three-year MOUs. I have asked the federal government for support for the 4R Climate-Smart Protocol and the partners are currently finalizing a fourth MOU.
The effect of reduced nutrient use to achieve Canada’s blanket 30 per cent reduction in emissions would reduce Manitoba’s competitiveness in producing and processing protein. As well, this federal reduction policy would not have equal effects on farmers based on size, existing practices and the extent to which beneficial management practices, such as sub-surface placement, have been adopted. Smaller producers would be unfairly hurt because the cost of equipment to enhance nutrient efficiency and reduce GHGs cannot be spread across a larger land base.
Application on farms should be based on the science of soil testing and analysis to ensure farmers are not over-using nutrients. An over-application is not cost-effective or practical to farmers. Practices to reduce emissions must be effective, economical, adaptable and well thought-out because vulnerable populations would be disproportionately affected by higher food costs if production volume is reduced by this policy on nutrient reduction.
The agriculture industry in Manitoba produces quality, affordable food that also benefits food security in other countries. Manitoba exported more than $7.7 billion in commodities and processed food to its global neighbours in 2021. Manitoba farmers cannot feed the world without the use of nutrients, which help crops grow.
The responsibility for reducing GHGs through food production is a cost that cannot be borne by farmers alone. Producers have to continue to be involved in discussions on ways to achieve reduction targets and flexibility on approaches is key, given the diversity of production systems and Canada’s land base. Affordability, societal benefits, sound science and the full effect on production and profitability in differing environmental conditions must be considered.
I will continue to push for these factors to be thoroughly accounted for in GHG emissions-reduction decisions affecting our agricultural producers. Our government stands up for Manitoba farmers, who are great stewards of the land in their use of sustainable agricultural practices and who work every day to produce food while protecting the environment.Source : news.gov.mb.ca