Farmers For Climate Solutions Press Release

Posted on Wednesday, 28 October 2020 under Climate Solutions

For immediate release

Alarming New Study Raises Concern on Agricultural Emissions, Prompts Canadian Farmers to Call for Government Support for Farmer-led Solutions

Saskatoon, SK., October 8, 2020 – Following the release of a groundbreaking study that shows global food production poses an increasing climate threat, with agriculture being the main source of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions, farmers across Canada are calling for government support to rapidly roll out solutions that will reduce the use of nitrogen fertilizers on Canadian farms.

The study, conducted by an international group of 57 scientists and published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature – the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal – reveals that the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture is one of the most important causes of nitrous oxide (N₂O) emissions. The study also shows that N₂O emissions are increasing at a rate that’s higher than the worst-case scenario for that greenhouse gas, which if left unchecked, promises to derail achievement of Paris Agreement objectives. N₂O is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

With nitrogen fertilizer use shown to have doubled in Canada since 1993 according to Statistics Canada, the farmer-led Canadian coalition Farmers for Climate Solutions is calling for governments to work closely with farmers to reverse this trend.

“There are many promising ways to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use that are being employed on Canadian farms, but despite this, overall nitrogen fertilizer use is increasing across the country,” says Darrin Qualman, Farmers for Climate Solutions member and Director of Climate Crisis Policy & Action at the National Farmers Union (NFU). “If we’re serious about reducing agricultural emissions, we urgently need government programs that support farmers to scale up and expand these practices.”

Farmers for Climate Solutions recently issued a report titled, “A Better Future Starts on the Farm: Recommendations for recovery from COVID-19 in Canadian agriculture”, which details five actions that the Canadian government can take to help farmers reduce emissions, increase resilience and protect Canada’s food supply.

In the Speech from the Throne passed this week, the federal government made an unprecedented commitment to support farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resilience in its plan to deliver a green recovery following the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian research from Fertilizer Canada shows that farmers could reduce nitrogen fertilizer use by up to 35 percent without affecting yields.

“On my mixed cattle and grain farm, I’m adding cover crops, mapping my soil so that I can optimize my fertilizer use according to soil fertility, and I’m protecting wetlands,” says Ian McCreary, a farmer from Bladworth, Saskatchewan. “I still have a long way to go, but the message is that we’re not locked into rising trends in our sector’s emissions. We continue to look for new solutions and keep up to date with the research. I’m trying new ideas every year because as a farmer, I want to be part of Canada’s climate solution.”

“Over the last 50 years in Canada, we have increased our agricultural production by using more nitrogen fertilizer, which has negative impacts on our air, water and soil,” says Dr. David Burton, professor at Dalhousie University. “We now need to work together as scientists, farmers and governments to ensure we can maintain agricultural productivity and even improve farmer livelihoods while doing so in more efficient ways that use nitrogen from all sources.”

Other ways Canadian farmers are working to reduce fertilizer use include planting legumes, which naturally fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil through their roots, extending crop rotations to diversify plants and avoid depleting certain soil nutrients, and cover cropping which helps to build soil health.

“Given what we know about the magnitude and urgency of the global climate challenge, we need lots of creative ideas to chart a course that makes sense for our sector, for food security and for the planet,” McCreary says. “We need the opportunity to learn through farmer-to-farmer programming, new incentives to help minimize the risks of changing our practices, ongoing research, and much more.”

About Farmers for Climate Solutions

Farmers for Climate Solutions is a farmer and rancher-led national coalition that works to make agriculture part of the solution to climate change. We currently represent 15 farmer-led and farmer-supporting member organizations, from coast-to-coast and spanning all types, scales and provinces of production. We work to advance agricultural policies that enhance Canadian farmers’ capacity to mitigate and adapt to climate change, improve farmer and rancher livelihoods, and assure our future food supply.


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