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Less fertilizer, less food? Canadian provinces protest Trudeau’s fertilizer reduction target

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2022-07-26  Origin: foodingredientsfirst  Views: 6
Core Tip: In a complex year for the agri sector, Canada plans to reduce 30% of its fertilizer use by 2030 in order to meet climate targets.
In a complex year for the agri sector, Canada plans to reduce 30% of its fertilizer use by 2030 in order to meet climate targets. However, Saskatchewan and Alberta Ministers of Agriculture have expressed their “profound disappointment” in the Canadian federal government’s “arbitrary goal.”

“This has been the most expensive crop anyone has put in, following a very difficult year on the prairies,” says Nate Horner, Alberta’s Minister of Agriculture.

“The world is looking for Canada to increase production and be a solution to global food shortages. The federal government needs to display that they understand this. They owe it to our producers,” he highlights.

Alberta and Saskatchewan authorities are critical that fertilizer emission reduction was not even a topic on the agenda at the annual meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers of agriculture.

“Provinces pushed the federal government to discuss this important topic, but were disappointed to learn that the target is already set,” explains the authorities.

“The commitment to future consultations is only to determine how to meet the target that prime minister Trudeau and minister Bibeau have already unilaterally imposed on this industry, not to consult on what is achievable or attainable,” they continue.

Canada net-zero by 2050
The Canadian federal government defends that reducing fertilizer use will help Canada not exceed its 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target and achieve net-zero by 2050.

“We are continuing to support the development and adoption of practices and equipment that reduce GHGemissions and improve the sector’s climate change resiliency. With the experience of fertilizer industry representatives, farmers and other pertinent groups, we can work together to identify concrete and innovative steps to help meet our targets,” says Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food.

The government has announced CND$550 million (US$427 million) over ten years to help Canada’s farmers meet its emission targets.

A report from Fertilizer Canada explains how the fertilizer reduction will affect farmers’ pockets.

“It is estimated that a 30% absolute emission reduction for a farmer with 1,000 acres of canola and 1,000 acres of wheat, stands to have their profit reduced by approximately CND$38,000 – CND$40,500 (US$29.523 to US$31.465) annually.”

That would represent a loss of CND$400 million (US$310 million) for wheat farmers and a CND$396 (US$308) to CND$441 million (US$343 million) reduction for canola ones.

Fertilizer Canada also suggests focusing on reducing emissions per bushel and not using a total cap. If not, they warn that yield crop productivity will fall below 2020 levels.

Less food production might lead Canada to depend on food imports from countries relying on less sustainable agriculture practices.

“We cannot feed the growing world population with a reduction in fertilizer,” says the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The UN warned earlier this year that global food production in 2023 may be unable to meet rising demand without proper fertilizer use.

Fertilizer prices through the roof
With Russia being the biggest global manufacturer of fertilizers, prices have doubled this year, according to the UN report.

Farmers are already careful with their fertilizer use.

“Producers are conservative in the use of fertilizer inputs and don’t add more than what is needed. They alone simply cannot shoulder the impact of this shortsighted policy.”

Eastern Canada farmers are the most impacted as approximately 660,000 to 680,000 metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer are imported from Russia to the region annually. That represents the practical totality (85% to 90%) of the total nitrogen fertilizer used in the area.

Furthermore, a swift 35% tariff on Russian products – and therefore fertilizers – was put in place in Canada in March after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, not giving farmers any time to search for alternative sources.

Last week, the US International Trade Commission rejected a 132.6% duty on Russian fertilizers, a huge relief for domestic producers who want to keep prices at manageable levels.

Agri sector calls for support
Farm groups, together with the fertilizer industry, are calling on the government to support farmers.

“We need compensation for farmers negatively impacted by the tariffs, and we want a secure and reliable supply of fertilizer so we can roll up our sleeves and do our part to help the world through this crisis,” says Brendan Burner, chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Canada is the only country of the G7 with tariffs on fertilizers coming from Russia, as the EU doesn’t apply a tariff but an import quota.

“Farmers bore the costs of tariffs which has put Canadian farmers at a disadvantage to farmers in other countries who did not have tariffs on fertilizers,” adds Christian Overbeek, chairman, Québec Grain Farmers.

“Fertilizer is the most important input for ensuring strong, hearty yields,” highlights Karen Proud, president and CEO, Fertilizer Canada.  
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