How Canada’s Emissions Targets are Affecting Farmers

Climate Change

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Recently, the federal government of Canada put forward new emissions targets for the Agricultural Sector. This includes reducing national fertilizer emissions to 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.

I was fascinated by this and wanted to learn more. It’s not often we hear from farmers that are directly impacted by these policies, which is why I reached out to Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel – public speaker, advocate and farmer from Saskatchewan. Cherilyn’s insights were fascinating on the implications this policy has for farmers across Canada.

What Are the Major Costs in Running a Farm?

There’s less people choosing farming. Canada has less than 2 percent of the population farming today. And Cherilyn mentions we have an information gap when it comes to farming. Farmers have not done a great job explaining the sector and its challenges. For some Canadians, they may be 2 generations removed from farmers in their family and so it’s less likely this information was passed down. Today, agricultural workers are so busy keeping up with the technological advances in the sector that there has not been a coordinated public outreach strategy in helping people understand the sector and its challenges.

To farm in Canada today, it’s very expensive. The undertaking is capital intensive: if you do not have an establish land-base (land is very expensive), tools and technology – it’s too expensive for most to enter the sector. Some of the major expenses include fertilizer as well. Nutrients are absolutely essential to make profitable crops. Land prices continue to rise, including taxes.

The Carbon Tax has inequitably affected farmers, according to Cherilyn. For her, crops are sold on the world market (e.g., canola, lentils, chick peas, durum wheat, barley and spring wheat). Each has a set price around the world – however other jurisdictions do not have a federal Carbon Tax, which farmers have to factor in. Transportation is also very expensive for farmers located in the landlocked centre of Canada.

That said, Canada’s competitive advantage is the quality of crops the country produces. The country has a reputation of producing high-quality grain, sometimes to our detriment. Some countries simply cannot afford this. The biggest challenge according to Cherilyn is the lack of thought to infrastructure. The physical logistics in getting grain from Saskatchewan onto railway cars to the Port of Vancouver, into freight elevators, into vessels and then sent overseas.

What is the Infrastructure That is Needed for Transporting Grain?

Railway is absolutely essential for transporting grain. In Canada, there is a duopoly over the railway sector (CP and CN Rail). For Cherilyn, seeing tax dollars spent on building out the infrastructure – particularly the importance of the Port of Vancouver.

As well, less investment in bulk grain – but instead focusing on value-added grain. What’s going out has some value to it already.

What are the Impacts of the federal Government’s Emissions Targets on Farmers?

The impact of fertilizer emissions targets on Canadian farmers will likely depend on the specific policies and regulations that are implemented, as well as the ability of farmers to adopt new technologies and practices to reduce emissions.

In general, farmers may face increased costs and regulatory burdens as they work to comply with emissions targets. For example, they may need to purchase new equipment or adopt new practices, such as precision fertilizer application or cover cropping, which can be costly. Additionally, farmers may need to invest in new technologies or infrastructure, such as anaerobic digestion systems, to reduce emissions from livestock operations.

The carbon tax, which is a policy that places a price on carbon emissions, can have a number of negative impacts on farmers in Canada. Some of the potential impacts include:

  • Increased costs: The carbon tax can increase the cost of energy and inputs used on the farm, such as fuel for tractors and fertilizer, which can lead to higher production costs for farmers.
  • Reduced competitiveness: The carbon tax may make Canadian farmers less competitive in global markets, as other countries may not have similar policies in place, which could make their products cheaper.
  • Reduced profitability: The carbon tax may also reduce the profitability of farming operations, as farmers may not be able to pass on the added costs to consumers through higher prices.
  • Burden on small farmers: Small farmers may be disproportionately impacted by the carbon tax, as they may have less capacity to absorb added costs or invest in emissions-reducing technologies and practices.

Final Thoughts

The impacts of the federal government’s policies on farmers cannot be understated, however there is work going on right now to engage farmers more meaningfully on emissions targets and reductions.

Cherilyn continues to advocate for farmers’ issues. You can find more about Cherilyn’s work here:


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