Global food shortage? So what! Governments want to reduce the use of fertilizer anyway
Once we acknowledge that over 80% of Canadians live in cities (and an even larger percentage seemingly don’t care much about poor people) it’s much easier to understand why the average Canadian isn’t far more upset with the government’s plan to coerce farmers to cut back on nitrogen fertilizer (otherwise known as plant food).
As complex as the formulas are for estimating the amount of pollution caused by fertilizer use, there’s actually a very simple way to understand this initiative. So let’s simplify. In order to help reduce Canada’s share (about 1%) of global emissions (which a ton of scientists swear is making the world hotter.. Sorry not hotter.. but more climate changy…which actually somehow means worse for everyone everywhere) the government is strongly urging farmers to use less fertilizer and thereby produce less food. The federal government estimates farming is responsible for about 10% of Canada’s emissions. Now that’s all aspects of farming including everything from using nitrogen fertilizer, to driving tractors, to presumably the horrible practice farmers share of breathing out every couple of seconds (more when they’re working hard). They estimate nitrogen fertilizer is responsible for about 18% of the emissions from farming (see below). In other words, this has to stop! I mean 18% of 10% of 1%.. how did we let this get so far away on us?
But here’s a question. Why would a farmer (who is a business operator) want to produce less food (which is the product farmers make and sell to feed the world)? Until now, farmers have always taken pride in producing the best possible crops using the lowest possible inputs (all the expenses from gas to seed to fertilizer, etc). Who wouldn’t? It’s how they make their money. Sounds like a tough sell. Perhaps that’s why governments are coming out with programs that will pay farmers not to farm quite so much. Right here in Alberta there’s a program that could pay an individual farmer up to $75,000.00 to cut back and be a better producer (government talk for producing less food) for people (not poor people who may starve in the coming months) fortunate enough to live 100 years from now.
Sure. That may sound a little offside when you consider global food shortages (another term for starving people) are expected to increase drastically in the coming months. You see the world is always somewhere between a little short of food and desperately short of food (depending on where you live you might feel more ‘desperate’ than inconvenienced). A simple minded person like myself might say “Why would we mess with this system that is feeding more people successfully than at any other time in world history?” Silly me. These guys are way beyond that simple thinking. That’s why the government isn’t asking farmers to consider what’s happening in the world right now (8 billion people need to eat). The government is asking farmers to consider what ‘might’ happen sometime in the future (it may sound a bit wacky when we say it out loud, but we’re pretty sure we can stop the climate from changing).
Apparently in order to get the climate under our control, we should be OK if we have to sacrifice a few million (or multiple hundred million) eaters (another word for people) in the next few years (could be starting in the next few months).
Relax Canadians. We can continue to fly across the country to go surfing in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (I saw you there on the beach didn’t I?). We’re almost surely not going to miss a meal. Yah, we might have to double or triple down at the grocery store, but just think of that perfect summer day in the future! You’ll be so happy when your child gleefully watches your grandchild in their paper swim suit splash away in the wooden baby pool that’s in the driveway where the car used to be out front of the rental (now that we won’t be allowed to own cars anymore there’s going to be so much more room in our driveways!) Too bad you can’t travel to be there in person because you’re still getting that ESG score back up after that trip to see the kids a couple years back. Too bad you can’t use that cool social media app to see what they posted because you accidentally typed Turdo instead of Trudeau six months ago (stupid spellcheck).
Here’s to a bright future without the constant worry of oil and gas and nitrogen fertilizer! Just think. No more storms. No more pesky record high or low temperatures. And water levels remain constant year in and year out. It’s going to be awesome (for all the descendants of the people who get to eat in the next couple of years). Maybe we’ll build a statue to honour today’s fearless leaders who are so smart they have realized that it’s NOT THEIR JOB TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE WHO VOTE FOR THEM TODAY, but to CREATE A BETTER FUTURE FOR THE DESCENDANTS OF THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD TO SURVIVE in the future! We’ll certainly inscribe it with something like “These guys weren’t afraid to crack a few eggs to make this omelette. Hope you enjoy omelettes!” I think the perfect location to put that statue will be Davos. I hear it’s beautiful. Speaking of omelettes I hope there are still chickens in the future. I understand those little runts like farting as much as cows do and don’t kid yourself, it adds up!
I digress. This isn’t all about my wandering thoughts. As a journalistic endeavour I’d like to present both sides of thinking on this initiative. This should help teach those simple farmers and their university educated consultants how to farm better with less fertilizer and more crop rotation, etc. (I’m still amazed farmers didn’t already figure this out for themselves, but I bow to those worldly thinkers who make these plans on “our” behalf.) Anyway, a few thoughts from Agriculture Canada, followed by an informative (and entertaining) video presentation from a very well known Saskatchewan farmer.
These statements have been pulled from the “Discussion Document: Reducing emissions arising from the application of fertilizer in Canada’s agriculture sector” on the federal government’s website. You can read it all here but I’ve pulled a couple of statements to help explain the brilliant future forward thinking that goes into plans like this. So please read about why our governments are telling farmers to grow less food to feed fewer people at a time of food shortages.
” In December 2020, the Government of Canada announced its Strengthened Climate Plan, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.” It includes a number of measures affecting the agriculture sector, with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and increase carbon sequestration. This discussion paper addresses one of these measures: a national target to reduce absolute levels of GHG emissions arising from fertilizer application by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030.
Agriculture was responsible for approximately 10% of Canada’s GHG emissions in 2019, or 73 Mt CO2, which come from three main sources: enteric fermentation (24Mt), crop production (24Mt) , and on-farm fuel use (14Mt) (National Inventory Report, 2021.) Based on current data for 2019, emissions from synthetic fertilizers accounted for 12.75 Mt. While many players in the agriculture sector are already working to improve nutrient management and reduce emissions associated with crop production, fertilizers are responsible for a growing share of overall agricultural emissions.
Since the release of Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan, the Government of Canada has moved swiftly to implement its key aspects in order to create jobs, grow the economy and protect the planet. In April 2021, in line with its obligations under the Paris Agreement, the Government of Canada announced a new GHG emissions reduction target of 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target, along with other developments such as the passage of the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act, which enshrines in legislation Canada’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions across the Canadian economy by 2050, highlights the need to reduce absolute GHG emissions across all economic sectors, including agriculture.
This part is really interesting because it shows how fertilizer use is far more intense in Quebec and the Maritime provinces, though the bulk of the reductions will have to take place in Western Canada anyway. You know, because.. even though western farmers use less, there are more of them so they actually use more, plus they’re farther away from Ottawa and have less representation per capita.. what was I saying?
Fertilizer induced emissions are not spatially or temporally uniform across Canadian agricultural landscapes. The seasonal pattern of N2O emissions reflects the interaction between soil temperature, soil water and nitrate availability. Drier regions of the Prairies have much lower N2O losses than the moister regions of Eastern Canada. N2O emissions per hectare are greater in Eastern Canada as a result of the wetter climate and greater N application rates. However, the much larger land area in the Prairies vs. Eastern Canada results in greater total N fertilizer application in the Prairies and thus the total emissions are much higher in this region.
It is important to note that the strategies required to achieve the 30% N2O emission reduction objective will vary across the country as the emissions reduction potential is impacted by biophysical factors (soil type, soil humidity, climate), crop types, and climate change impacts.Footnote3 (OH DEAR GOD CLIMATE CHANGE IS CAUSING MORE CLIMATE CHANGE!)
Figure 3 illustrates the differences between the fertilizer induced emissions patterns across the country, showing N2O emissions per hectare in 2018. The intensity of fertilizer emissions (emissions per ha) is higher east of Saskatchewan, indicating that more fertilizer is applied per hectare, resulting in more direct emissions on a per-acre basis. In addition, wetter conditions in the East result in more direct and indirect emissions.
This part clearly explains how regions that use less fertilizer may be asked to cut back even more than regions using a lot more per capita, because.. because. Also it encourages farmers to stop the nasty habit of pouring fertilizer out randomly all over the place and then grabing a pinch and throwing it over their shoulder. For some reason it still hasn’t addressed when farmers (and their family members) exhale, which is also more intense in heavily populated urban areas in the east (likely because it’s not N2O, but CO2).
Objectives of the National Target for Fertilizer Emissions
In order to achieve a concrete reduction in overall emissions, the target is established relative to absolute emissions rather than emissions intensity. The Government of Canada has been clear that the objective of the national target for fertilizers is to reduce emissions, and that the primary method to achieve this is not to establish a mandatory reduction in fertilizer use that isn’t linked to improved efficiency and maintaining or improving yields. Rather, the goal is to maximize efficiency, optimize fertilizer use, encourage innovation, and to work collaboratively with the agriculture sector, partners and stakeholders in identifying opportunities that will allow us to successfully reach this target.
OK. I don’t expect you were able to understand most of that. But they did their best to explain to those of us who aren’t as good as planning future world scenarios as they are. Now that you see the way our fearless leaders think. But what about the rest of us? In the interest of journalistic integrity we’ll show you what one simple farmer thinks of being urged to use less fertilizer. If you haven’t seen QDM before, please note he sometimes uses very descriptive adjectives (sometimes he turns them into verbs and nouns too) which might be a tad harsh for the younger folk. Please enjoy with a grain of salt and a malted beverage. When he’s finished you can decide for yourself whether you think it’s a great idea to cut back on food production by using less fertilizer.
11 states consider ‘right to repair’ for farming equipment
By Jesse Bedayn in Denver
DENVER (AP) — On Colorado’s northeastern plains, where the pencil-straight horizon divides golden fields and blue sky, a farmer named Danny Wood scrambles to plant and harvest proso millet, dryland corn and winter wheat in short, seasonal windows. That is until his high-tech Steiger 370 tractor conks out.
The tractor’s manufacturer doesn’t allow Wood to make certain fixes himself, and last spring his fertilizing operations were stalled for three days before the servicer arrived to add a few lines of missing computer code for $950.
“That’s where they have us over the barrel, it’s more like we are renting it than buying it,” said Wood, who spent $300,000 on the used tractor.
Wood’s plight, echoed by farmers across the country, has pushed lawmakers in Colorado and 10 other states to introduce bills that would force manufacturers to provide the tools, software, parts and manuals needed for farmers to do their own repairs — thereby avoiding steep labor costs and delays that imperil profits.
“The manufacturers and the dealers have a monopoly on that repair market because it’s lucrative,” said Rep. Brianna Titone, a Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors. “(Farmers) just want to get their machine going again.”
In Colorado, the legislation is largely being pushed by Democrats while their Republican colleagues find themselves stuck in a tough spot: torn between right-leaning farming constituents asking to be able to repair their own machines and the manufacturing businesses that oppose the idea.
The manufacturers argue that changing the current practice with this type of legislation would force companies to expose trade secrets. They also say it would make it easier for farmers to tinker with the software and illegally crank up the horsepower and bypass the emissions controller — risking operators’ safety and the environment.
Similar arguments around intellectual property have been leveled against the broader campaign called ‘right to repair,’ which has picked up steam across the country — crusading for the right to fix everything from iPhones to hospital ventilatorsduring the pandemic.
In 2011, Congress passed a law ensuring that car owners and independent mechanics — not just authorized dealerships — had access to the necessary tools and information to fix problems.
Ten years later, the Federal Trade Commission pledged to beef up its right to repair enforcement at the direction of President Joe Biden. And just last year, Titone sponsored and passed Colorado’s first right to repair law, empowering people who use wheelchairs with the tools and information to fix them.
For the right to repair farm equipment — from thin tractors used between grape vines to behemoth combines for harvesting grain that can cost over half a million dollars — Colorado is joined by 10 states including Florida, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas and Vermont.
Many of the bills are finding bipartisan support, said Nathan Proctor, who leads Public Interest Research Group’s national right to repair campaign. But in Colorado’s House committee on agriculture, Democrats pushed the bill forward in a 9-4 vote along party lines, with Republicans in opposition even though the bill’s second sponsor is Republican Rep. Ron Weinberg.
“That’s really surprising, and that upset me,” said the Republican Wood.
Wood’s tractor, which flies an American flag reading “Farmers First,” isn’t his only machine to break down. His grain harvesting combine was dropping into idle, but the servicer took five days to arrive on Wood’s farm — a setback that could mean a hail storm decimates a wheat field or the soil temperature moves beyond the Goldilocks zone for planting.
“Our crop is ready to harvest and we can’t wait five days, but there was nothing else to do,” said Wood. “When it’s broke down you just sit there and wait and that’s not acceptable. You can be losing $85,000 a day.”
Rep. Richard Holtorf, the Republican who represents Wood’s district and is a farmer himself, said he’s being pulled between his constituents and the dealerships in his district covering the largely rural northeast corner of the state. He voted against the measure because he believes it will financially impact local dealerships in rural areas and could jeopardize trade secrets.
“I do sympathize with my farmers,” said Holtorf, but he added, “I don’t think it’s the role of government to be forcing the sale of their intellectual property.”
At the packed hearing last week that spilled into a second room in Colorado’s Capitol, the core concerns raised in testimony were farmers illegally slipping around the emissions control and cranking up the horsepower.
“I know growers, if they can change horsepower and they can change emissions they are going to do it,” said Russ Ball, sales manager at 21st Century Equipment, a John Deere dealership in Western states.
The bill’s proponents acknowledged that the legislation could make it easier for operators to modify horsepower and emissions controls, but argued that farmers are already able to tinker with their machines and doing so would remain illegal.
This January, the Farm Bureau and the farm equipment manufacturer John Deere did sign a memorandum of understanding — a right to repair agreement made in the free market and without government intervention. The agreement stipulates that John Deere will share some parts, diagnostic and repair codes, and manuals to allow farmers to do their own fixes.
The Colorado bill’s detractors laud that agreement as a strong middle ground while Titone said it wasn’t enough, evidenced by six of Colorado’s biggest farmworker associations that support the bill.
Proctor, who is tracking 20 right to repair proposals in a number of industries across the country, said the memorandum of understanding has fallen far short.
“Farmers are saying no,” Proctor said. “We want the real thing.”
Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
New agri-processing tax credit to attract large-scale investment and diversify Alberta economy
Capitalizing on value-added agriculture
Alberta is introducing a new agri-processing tax credit that will help attract large-scale investment, diversify the economy and create jobs for Albertans.
As provinces and states across North America look to capitalize on the potential of the agri-processing industry, Alberta will build on the province’s competitive advantages by launching a new tax credit program in spring 2023. The program will ensure Alberta maintains a competitive edge over other jurisdictions and is able to maximize the number of opportunities that help grow the economy and create jobs.
Budget 2023 will introduce the Alberta Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit to provide a 12 per cent non-refundable tax credit to support this growth and attract investment. To be eligible, corporations must make a minimum capital investment of $10 million in value-added agri-processing in Alberta.
“Agriculture has been a key part of Alberta’s economy for more than 100 years and I’m excited to see this tax credit program roll out so that it continues to be a key part of our economy in the future. Alberta’s agricultural producers play an important role in feeding the world and I look forward to seeing further innovation and growth in this sector.”
“Alberta has the fundamentals to take our value-added agriculture industry to new heights and meet the increasing global demand for food. The new agri-processing tax credit will allow us to attract large-scale agri-food projects that will help grow our industry, increase opportunities for primary producers, create jobs and feed the world.”
As Alberta’s oldest industry, agriculture is foundational to the province’s economy and identity. Incentivizing large capital investments will ensure the sector remains strong for generations to come and capable of adapting to the economy of the future.
“The Alberta Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit further positions Alberta as an attractive place to do business. By supporting this quickly evolving and increasingly competitive sector, this government is further encouraging investment that will create jobs and grow Alberta’s economy.”
“With the introduction of the agri-processing investment tax credit, Alberta has positioned itself to attract more large-scale sector investments than ever before from companies like mine. This is the right way for Alberta’s agri-food sector to support diversification, create jobs, compete and win.”
“Alberta is widely recognized in the business community for its competitive tax rates, skilled workforce and strong primary agriculture sector. By offering a 12 per cent tax credit to agri-food processors making a minimum investment of $10 million, Alberta is maintaining its status as a top destination for value-added agricultural projects.”
“Population growth, a changing climate and increased costs of food are all indicators that food security will be a growing challenge. The new agri-processing tax credit program is a great incentive that will continue to highlight rural Alberta as the home of an innovative agriculture industry that plays a vital role in supporting food production.”
- Food manufacturing sales reached a record $20.1 billion in 2021 and the sector employed 22,400 Albertans.
- The food manufacturing sector was the largest manufacturing industry in the province, accounting for 23.8 per cent of total provincial manufacturing sales in 2021.
- Global demand for food is expected to increase by up to 56 per cent by 2050.
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