‘Better is always possible,’ Canada’s agriculture minister says, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to curbing climate pollution from farms & More Trending News


Several occasions final yr, Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau discovered herself stomping by means of fields speaking to farmers coping with unprecedented floods, drought and hurricanes. The disasters have been an “eye-opener” for a lot of, hinting at a future the place the climate disaster will make related disasters extra widespread — and worse.

“These extreme events are the biggest threat to our production,” she mentioned in a December interview with Canada’s National Observer. “We need to support farmers in becoming more resilient.”

Agriculture is chargeable for about 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gasoline emissions. Most come from methane, a greenhouse gasoline emitted by livestock and manure, and nitrous oxide, which is generated by the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers. Reducing each forms of emissions is potential with regenerative farming methods that cut back fertilizer use and improve the well being of the soil. These approaches additionally make farms extra resilient to excessive climate, providing safety from droughts and floods.

Problem is, adopting them is costly for farmers making an attempt to defend their backside line amid a number of different challenges. The approaches have additionally been affected by disinformation fuelled by trade lobbyists, far-right activists and a few conservative politicians.

Canada’s National Observer talked with Bibeau late final month about these points. The dialog has been edited for readability.

You discuss to farmers throughout the nation regularly and have a front-seat view of how the climate disaster is impacting them. What have you ever taken away from these conversations and what is the federal government doing to handle the problem?

We want to help farmers in being extra resilient within the face of those occasions. We know that through the use of good practices, you not solely cut back emissions or sequester extra carbon, but you additionally make your self extra resilient to droughts or floods, which is extraordinarily essential.

We’ve put in place some targets and are working by means of incentives. The on-farm Climate Action Fund, for instance, is offering incentives to farmers for them to shortly undertake good practices reminiscent of cowl cropping, rotational grazing and higher administration of fertilizers. We are investing in inexperienced applied sciences by means of the Agricultural Clean Technology Program to allow them to afford issues like precision agriculture, energy-efficient barn heating or biodigesters. And third is actually round supporting agriculture science and innovation to discover new sustainable strategies and applied sciences.

Last yr, the European Union applied an bold plan to make its farms extra sustainable, pledging, as an example, to cut back pesticide use by half. Some nations, such because the Netherlands, have gone even additional, pushing for reductions in nitrous oxide emissions by up to 70 per cent in some areas.

So far, Canada’s efforts have been largely voluntary, whether or not to cut back emissions or the usage of agrichemicals that affect biodiversity. Are we doing sufficient?

“I travel a lot and visit a lot of farmers in the field. I’m always touched by the level of stress that farmers are going through these days,” says federal Agriculture Minister @mclaudebibeau

I feel we’re sustainable agriculture leaders on many fronts. It’s very onerous to evaluate a small nation in Europe with a really dense inhabitants with our grasslands right here in Canada, for instance. We have to have in mind the surroundings by which we’re farming. There is not one size fits all. But I nonetheless suppose we’d like to make progress all over the place on serving to farmers be extra sustainable.

Science exhibits regenerative or natural practices, together with utilizing fewer artificial pesticides and fertilizers, are higher for the climate and biodiversity. Talking to farmers, I’ve additionally observed adopting these approaches might be extra financially sustainable in the long term.

However, efforts to promote these approaches can turn out to be extremely politicized. Take the right-wing disinformation marketing campaign final summer time about your ministry’s proposed fertilizer discount plan. How are you able to make sustainable practices extra widespread in gentle of the specter of this type of political or ideological opposition?

It’s not straightforward. I’ve been in authorities for seven years now and I’d say that every one the session processes we have had in that point have helped us roll out applications supported by the best variety of farmers. It’s by no means excellent and really uncommon that everyone agrees on the identical factor. But typically talking, I really feel the applications that we now have rolled out are well-received.

We have to acknowledge that agriculture is completely different throughout the nation. We do not produce the identical factor, we do not produce the identical method. And higher is always potential. But I feel everybody is making an effort: we now have doubled our manufacturing in about 20 years whereas we now have roughly maintained the identical degree of emissions. So we see that farmers are actually dedicated to sustainability — but with the climate disaster, we now have to double down.

Farmers want these inputs to management pests and to enhance productiveness as a result of we (additionally) have to feed the world as the worldwide inhabitants is rising. So we now have to discover the best steadiness between rising our capability to produce as a result of different nations depend on our meals whereas lowering our affect on the surroundings and emissions. So it is onerous to strike a steadiness and there’s no straightforward solution. But we intention for one of the best.

What challenges are you anticipating for 2023?

Animal well being ailments shall be an essential problem. We had a tough yr with avian influenza. We’re working carefully with the trade and the provinces to first stop African swine fever. Hopefully, we are going to by no means have to take care of it, but we would like to be ready if it enters the nation. Same with foot-and-mouth illness.

In phrases of plant illness, we now have potato wart and different ailments. These are essential recordsdata that we hope we won’t have to take care of but we’re following carefully. As you’ll be able to inform, we do numerous disaster administration.

Besides that, we’re persevering with to roll out our agri-environmental applications and financing of analysis and innovation. We are additionally finalizing the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership Agreement that we agreed to final July. It’s $3.5 billion of investments within the trade for the subsequent coming 5 years, a rise of $500 million in contrast to the earlier related settlement.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss. Any closing phrases?

I journey loads and go to numerous farmers within the subject. I’m always touched by the extent of stress that farmers are going by means of today.

I need to point out how essential it is to handle our farmers and be sure that they will earn dwelling from their manufacturing. They are important to our meals safety, and we should always undoubtedly not take them as a right. They are doing a really, very robust job whereas doing their best possible to defend the surroundings. Their land is probably the most valuable factor they’ve, and so they need to switch it to their kids and grandchildren. It’s onerous work.

‘Better is always possible,’ Canada’s agriculture minister says, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to curbing climate pollution from farms

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‘Better is always possible,’ Canada’s agriculture minister says, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to curbing climate pollution from farms

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‘Better is always possible,’ Canada’s agriculture minister says, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to curbing climate pollution from farms

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