AAFC publishes “What We Heard” report on fertilizer emissions target consultations

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) published its “What We Heard” report on the feedback it received on its 30 per cent fertilizer emissions reduction policy on Wednesday, more than six months after consultations wrapped up.

AAFC says it received over 2,000 submissions during the consultation period, which ran from March through August 2022.

“Thank you to all of you who participated in the engagement process, sharing your time, energy and insights in support of this important work,” writes Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, in the intro to the report. “High participation in this consultation process provided valued advice and will be considered as work continues towards a strategy to reduce nitrogen emissions from fertilizer application.”

She reiterates the government is not planning a mandatory reduction in fertilizer use. “Instead, we want to support measures that producers can take voluntarily to reduce their emissions over the long term, without curtailing growth in crop yields,” she writes.

The report says the following four areas where government could act were highlighted throughout the consultation process:

  • Increasing adoption of Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) with decreased upfront costs and demonstration of their success and profitability on the farm;
  • Supporting innovation to help the sector on a path forward, with financial support and improved infrastructure;
  • Improving measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fertilizer application, with minimal reporting burden for the farmer, and open data sharing while protecting data privacy; and
  • Engaging frequently with farmers, involving them directly in research efforts to use their deep knowledge and experience of their soils, landscape and farming practices.

According to AAFC, a large portion of the submissions questioned whether the target is needed. “This comment was often coupled with concerns that a mandatory target might later be imposed, and that this could impact production,” the report says. Respondents also voiced concerns about the timeline, a large gap in data and measurement of emissions. A “significant number” of respondents also said they preferred an intensity-based reduction in emissions rather than the government’s proposed absolute reduction target.

As for next steps, the report does not provide many details, other than saying the feedback from the consultations provides “important advice on possible actions and opportunities” to work toward the 30 per cent reduction target by 2030.

A fertilizer working group is being formed under the federal Sustainable Agriculture Strategy’s advisory committee, which is co-chaired by AAFC. This group is supposed to work on strengthening dialogue with industry, examining mechanisms for reducing emissions that might need government support, and improving measurement and tracking of fertilizer emissions.

Meanwhile, Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Keith Currie says CFA is pleased to see the report released.

“There is clearly a diversity of perspectives on many key issues, and we are pleased to see the report identify the importance of further producer engagement in advancing this voluntary approach. At the same time, we are pleased to see the report highlight the key themes we continue to explore in the context of the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy such as the importance of data capturing regional variation and accurately depicting on-farm emissions, and the need for robust incentives to effectively support adoption of best practices,” says Currie, in the federal news release.

“Most importantly, we are pleased to see the report factor in producer profitability, reflecting the need to consider emissions reduction strategies in the context of environmental, economic, and social sustainability,” he continues.

Fertilizer Canada is also pleased to see “universal support” for the 4R nutrient stewardship framework in the report, according to president and CEO Karen Proud. “We look forward to continuing to work with the government and producers to improve measurement and accelerate the adoption of 4R Best Management Practices, which reduce emissions and increases productivity,” she says.

The report was originally expected to be published last fall, within a couple months of consultations wrapping up.

You can read the “What We Heard” report here.

More to come.


Fertilizer emissions feedback, tariff-return program coming “soon,” says Bibeau

Trying to wrap our heads around the federal fertilizer emissions plan — a timeline of how we got to this point

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