Canada lagging behind on support for climate smart agriculture: report

A new report out of RBC Royal Bank’s Climate Action Institute has outlined a nine-point plan to push Canada’s agriculture industry forward on climate-smart production and practices.

From understanding and treating soil as an asset, to monetizing and reducing methane, to reviving knowledge sharing networks, the report digs in to where Canada is at and where it needs to be to remain competitive in a changing global economy.

In the video/podcast below, Dr. Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph, and Mohamad Yaghi,  agriculture and climate policy lead for RBC Royal Bank’s Climate Action Institute,  join RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to discuss the report, what’s behind it, and the why behind a bank pushing for more government involvement in agriculture programs.

But do we need government intervention? Haney challenges both Fraser and Yaghi to dig deeper in to what role they see for government and why it’s deemed necessary to keep Canada at the forefront of agriculture production and trade. (Full summary is below the player)

Read the full report, here.

SUMMARY

  • RBC Royal Bank, BCG Center for Canada’s Future, and the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute, have published a report that highlights the need for sustainable agriculture practices and the role of technology in addressing climate change
  • Canada has strengths in agriculture, including innovative farmers and producers, but federal and provincial funding lags behind other major agricultural nations
  • Even China invests a significant percentage of farm receipts into climate smart practices, while Canada invests only a small percentage
  • Canada has a chronic under-investment in agriculture, leading to low profitability and neglect of the industry’s ecological contributions
  • Farmers are expected to produce high-quality food while managing the environment and absorbing greenhouse gases without financial incentives, despite remarkable adoption of management practices across Canada
  • There needs to be more creative and flexible policy approaches to support farmers in Canada, rather than one-dimensional carbon tax policies
  • Evans notes that producers are excited about trying new techniques and methods, but current policy programs are restrictive and don’t allow for enough experimentation
  • Canada should provide a menu of options for farms to adopt climate-smart practices, as small farms may not be able to take advantage of carbon credit programs
  • Adopting climate-smart agricultural practices may have a short-term cost, but there is a business case over a four to six year period, with increased profitability and environmental benefits.
  • The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act is having and will have an impact on Canadian agriculture. What is our response? We need one
  • It’s important to include farm profitability and ROI in discussions about sustainable agriculture practices
  • Sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions measurement will be crucial for food industry participation in international markets
  • Policies should recognize the variability across Canada’s different farming regions and production systems
  • The National Soil Database and other initiatives in the 9-point plan aim to better measure the impact of practices, such as cover cropping, on greenhouse gas emissions
  • Producers want to do their part in reducing emissions, but lack critical information on practices and programs to implement
  • There is a national database proposed to provide information on what practices will work for different classes of farms, addressing lack of data and improving profitability
  • Society should provide compensation for farmers who deliberately take a loss to pull carbon out of the atmosphere or invest in bio digesters to reduce methane emissions
  • Is there a real need government intervention in agriculture? Why can’t the free market drive innovation and sustainability
  • Government involvement is necessary to create new market opportunities and increase investor confidence through standardization and measurement
  • Government should help reduce risks of adopting new practices and technologies to avoid farmers/producers bearing all risks
  • Mother Nature is changing faster than we’ve allowed ourselves to be aware of, so we need to play catch-up in a big way to address the climate crisis

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