Producers want recognition for climate efforts

Glacier FarmMedia – Canada’s grain farmers want to be acknowledged for their contributions to climate solutions rather than vilified for emissions, the standing committee on agriculture heard during recent testimony.

Susie Miller, executive director of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops, said more than 600 farmers with whom the organization consulted said they want recognition for action they have taken to reduce emissions and sequester carbon.

Why it matters: Grain growers are looking to be part of the conversation on future GHG emission mandates.

“They feel somewhat that they’re (seen as) the villain and they see themselves more like heroes,” Miller said during the May 2 meeting on agriculture’s role in the environment.

“Good environmental practices like soil health have always been important to crop farmers and they’re proud of the work that they do and want to be seen as professionals that have the expertise to undertake the right decisions.”

Miller said farmers believe there are many ways to reach environmental goals, which should be based on science and include the costs of benefits and impacts on them.

“It’s important for them, for government, but also their customers, not to arbitrarily dismiss certain practices as inadequate, favour one practice over the other or select a specific practice as the solution,” she said.

Differences between regions must be recognized, and the costs of nature-based solutions considered against risk management and viability goals.

Most of all, Miller said, they want to contribute but are unsure how they can help meet all the federal priorities — reducing emissions, increasing feed stock for renewable fuels, contributing to food security, and driving economic growth — all at the same time.

The market has to value these contributions and consider farmers’ investments.

“They fear, as I’m sure you’re aware, additional regulations or targets that are arbitrarily imposed, from their perspective, without due consideration of their ability to meet them,” she added.

Grain Growers of Canada executive director Erin Gowriluk said their members noted they’ve made significant investments in research to improve farmers’ environmental contributions.

“Long before any significant political pressure or policy mandates, farmers invested in sound science aimed at reducing both emissions as well as their carbon footprint,” she said. “Our member associations have invested millions into establishing best practices in fertilizer management so the best possible crop yields can be achieved while minimizing the crucial inputs needed to grow them. Investment in research like this make business sense just as much as they help the environment.”

Gowriluk also said on-farm practices like precision agriculture, three-tier and four-tier diesel engines in tractors, and GPS have all put farmers at the leading edge of environmental sustainability.

This doesn’t mean further progress can’t be made, she said, but these changes have come at a voluntary cost in the absence of regulatory requirements. Margins are increasingly narrow and forcing new costs upon farmers will threaten their viability.

Gowriluk urged the committee to make sure farmers have predictable risk management programs and to support Bill C-234 to exempt natural gas and propane from the carbon tax.

Conservative MP Dave Epp asked if the crop associations felt they had been heard by the federal agriculture and environment departments.

Miller said balancing all the pressures is becoming difficult.

“A lot of things have come very suddenly and haven’t allowed the type of discussion that we would prefer,” she said. “What we see is attempts at being open and inclusive and allowing us to participate.”

Gowriluk said grain growers want to be active participants in the discussion to make sure policies are practical and reflect their best interests.

– This article was originally published at The Western Producer.