Food supply will 'obviously suffer' under Trudeau's war on nitrogen fertilizer: farmers

Nearly three-quarters of farmers said that crop yields and food production would fall if they are forced to reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer, according to a recent survey cited by the CFIB.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

The Trudeau Liberals appear dead-set on ensuring that nitrous oxide emissions related to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer be cut. They want this in order to achieve their dream of seeing Canada be a net-zero country by 2050. Trudeau's goal is to reduce emissions by nearly a third before 2030, and he's demanding farmers pay the price.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and other groups are coming forward against the proposal, in hopes of ensuring that the emission reduction targets remain voluntary for farmers.

"While the government of Canada’s objective is to set a national target to reduce emissions, the primary method to achieve this is not to establish a mandatory reduction in fertilizer use," CFIB policy analyst Taylor Brown said to the Financial Post.

Considered an "essential element" for farmers, nitrogen fertilizer is needed to increase crop yields, which leads to higher grain sales and exports, and allows for farmers to live a more prosperous life along with their families.

Nearly three-quarters of farmers said that crop yields and food production would fall if they are forced to reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer, according to a recent survey cited by the CFIB.

Brown notes that cutting fertilizer would make farmers less profitable and less competitive.

"Coupled with rising costs and labour shortages, they are wondering how they’re going to continue saving the world," Brown said.

Vice-chair of Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (SaskWheat) Jake Leguee said that without fertilizer, "our crop yields will obviously suffer," and opposes any move by the Trudeau Liberals to reduce its use. "Just because one buys it doesn’t mean one is going to to use it that year," Leguee said.

The plan is also opposed by groups like Fertilizer Canada, who say that there could be a $48 billion loss in farm income if fertilize reduction is made law. Fertilizer Canada slammed the government's "short-sighted approach," arguing that reducing nitrogen fertilizer use "will have considerable impact on Canadian farmers' incomes and reduce overall Canadian exports and GDP."

According to a report compiled by Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) regulated fertilizer reduction could cost Canadian farmers $48 billion by 2030 and reduce crop sizes.

By this time, "yield gaps for three major crops are estimated at 23.6 bushels per acre per year for canola, 67.9 bushels per acre per year for corn, and 36.1 bushels per acre per year for spring wheat."

Several provincial agriculture ministers have also expressing displeasure with the Liberals' staunch plans to reduce fertilizer use.

After a meeting between federal and provincial ministers, several provinces said that they're "disappointed."

"Provinces were disappointed by the lack of flexibility and consultation regarding the federal target," said Ontario’s Lisa Thompson after the meeting, which took place nearly three weeks ago.

"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," Alberta minister Nate Horner said, according to the Toronto Sun.

"We’re really concerned with this arbitrary goal," said Saskatchewan’s David Marit.

Federal minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that the farmers would embrace the ambitious target, saying: "I'm meeting with many farmers in the field. I know how much they care for the environment and how much they invest in new practices and new technologies to reduce their emissions as much as possible. The idea is to produce the most sustainable food in the world."


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