The agriculture sector in Canada is being left behind, says Farmers for Climate Solutions

March 3, 2021

The agriculture sector in Canada is being left behind as other jurisdictions invest heavily in climate adaptation and mitigation in agriculture.

photo of three people standing in a field of waist-high crops.
Anastasia Fyk (middle), fourth generation buckwheat farmer with her father Don Fyk (left) and her uncle Ben Fyk (right), measuring the nutritional quality of their buckwheat. FFF Farms in Garland, Manitoba (Photo: Atom Dzaman)

When it comes to spending money on climate and environmentally-friendly agriculture, Canada is way behind its peers, shows research from Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS), a farmer-led coalition of which SeedChange is a member.

The European Union spends 73 times more than Canada on agri-environmental programs on a per-acre basis. The U.S. spends 13 times more. In a time when the people hit hardest by the consequences of the climate crisis are generally the people contributing least to it, Canada needs to step up its climate change mitigation.

Farmers want to lead in the shift to a climate-friendly sector, but they can’t do so without meaningful support.

[Logo of Farmers for Climate Solutions]
Text: Government investment in climate-friendly agriculture  HOW DOES CANADA STACK UP?  [illustration of a single coin] $0.7 CAD per acre, Canada  [illustration of two coins and two bills] $8.47 CAD per acre, United States  [illustration of stacks of bills and several coins] $51.75 CAD per acre, European Union

What could that support look like? FCS assembled a task force to develop data and science-backed recommendations.

In September 2020, the task force made up of farmers and other agricultural experts began to identify the most promising beneficial management practices for climate mitigation and adaptation, and to determine the best ways to incentivize these practices for rapid adoption.

They’ve now produced a comprehensive report with six policy proposals that can be implemented immediately. These proposals will not only help farmers reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase their resilience in the face of climate change, they will also help improve farmer livelihoods and provide a host of other benefits, like clean air and water, and increased biodiversity. They will also lay the groundwork for a comprehensive climate action plan as part of the next Agricultural Policy Framework, due in 2023.

Logo of Farmers for Climate Solutions. Image of a line graph. The y axis is labelled "megatonnes of GHGs (CO2e)" and the x axis is labelled with the years 2010, 2020, 2030. A red line trends up over the three years. It is accompanied by a sentence that says "CANADA'S AGRICULTURAL EMISSIONS ARE NOT TRENDING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION." A green line branches downward off the red line beginning in 2020. An accompanying sentence says "WE HAVE SOLUTIONS TO CHANGE OUR COURSE."

The six policy proposals are not an exhaustive list of everything that needs to be done to foster a climate-friendly ag sector in what’s known as Canada, but they are proven practices that can be implemented right away. Our policy proposals have the potential to reduce GHG emissions by around 10 megatonnes of CO2e per year, at a cost of $300 million. The average abatement cost of our proposals is slightly more than $31 per tonne.

These policies are practical, implementable and affordable, for both farmers and the government, and have the potential to jump-start the transition to a resilient and sustainable future in Canadian agriculture.

What is Farmers for Climate Solutions?

Farmers for Climate Solutions is a national coalition of farmer-led and supporting organizations that represents more than 20,000 farmers in Canada who believe that agriculture must be part of the solution to climate change.

Innovative farmers in Canada are already working on shifting the way we grow our food and farming in ways that are known to reduce GHG emissions, sequester carbon, and increase climate resilience. FCS advocates for public policies that will allow us to scale these practical and proven practices across millions of acres of farmland in the country.

What is SeedChange’s role in Farmers for Climate Solutions?

Since 2019, SeedChange has worked with a network of organizations to bring together and launch FCS. SeedChange is the secretariate of Farmers for Climate Solutions.

Supporting farmers’ efforts to respond to climate change has become an increasingly important part of the work that SeedChange does with farmers around the world. Not only is this work essential to protecting the food supply and farmers’ livelihoods, but it’s also an important strategy for mitigating climate change and reducing its harmful impacts. As stewards of the land, farmers can make an important contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere through their agricultural practices. With adequate support, they hold the key to powerful climate solutions.

In 2019, SeedChange was part of a core group of civil society organizations that got together to envision a coalition of farmer-led and farmer-supporting organizations working together to create rapid policy change in Canada. Since FCS launched in February 2020, SeedChange has been the coalition’s secretariat, hosting its dedicated staff and providing support services to the farmers and member organizations that make up the coalition.

CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, is a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. The idea is to express the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of CO2 that would create the same amount of warming. That way, a carbon footprint consisting of lots of different greenhouse gases can be expressed as a single number. Learn more on The Guardian.