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Is the Federal government's fertilizer greenhouse gas reduction goal of 30% realistic or sensible?


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The Federal government has a lofty goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer use in agriculture of 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.  

This federal government plan is described on the government website:

Government seeks guidance on path towards reducing emissions associated with fertilizer - Canada.ca

This government website announced a goal of 30% reduction by 2030 without consultation with the industry or any idea how food production would be affected and how this would fit in with the federal government's plan to greatly increase food production in the face of the U.N. stating much of the world or hundreds of millions of people are facing a crisis and starvation.   Canada  has committed to greatly increase food production yet the government is making a commitment to reduce fertilizer emissions by 30% by 2030.   How do they reconcile this contradiction?   Why is the government making this kind of 30% reduction commitment without having any idea of the consequences and how it could be done?  Are they putting the cart before the horse?  How can anyone make a commitment of that nature without having all the facts and a plan of exactly how such a thing could be done?

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers association says this about it:

"The target of an absolute reduction in nutrients used to produce our food was done without consultation with the fertilizer industry or Canadian grain and oilseed farmers."

The Issues

  • Fertilizer Canada has prepared a comprehensive report here.
  • Highlights include:
    • A focus on an absolute emissions reduction, rather than an intensity-based target, is misplaced and will likely cause severe economic harm.
    • Using modeling software, we’ve estimated that a 30% absolute emission reduction for a farmer with 1,000 acres of canola and 1,000 acres of wheat would have their profit reduced by $38,000 to $40,500 annually.
    • Across Western Canada this would mean canola revenues would be reduced by up to $441 million, while wheat revenue could experience a reduction of $400 million.
    • More emissions can be reduced through increased uptake of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program, while actually improving the competitiveness and profit of farmers.
  • A reduction in fertilizer use is contrary to the UN goal of eliminating world hunger by 2030.
  • The Federal government has set a target to increase Canadian agriculture exports from $55 billion in 2015 to at least $85 billion by 2025. This 55% increase is not attainable if the Federal Government reduces nitrogen fertilizer use by 30%.   unquote                                                                                                        Fertilizer Reduction | 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program (wheatgrowers.ca
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First, I don't think Fertilizer Canada is a reliable source on this topic, for the obvious conflict of interest it represents.  For example, they like to talk about how efficiently Canada uses fertilizer compared to "European Competitors", but it cherry-picks the countries it compares favorably to and bizarrely ignores all of the European countries that do much better, or the the United States for that matter. 

Though I will agree that government setting arbitrary targets without industry consultation is silly, I suspect that's not exactly how it went down.

Regardless, even Fertilizer Canada has acknowledged that a 14% reduction is achievable, and coming from a lobby group invested in promoting fertilizer usage, I think we can reasonably assume they're  estimating on the low end.  Considering this is essentially the gap in nitrogen efficiency between Canada and the US, it's not hard to imagine that we can improve farming practices beyond that.  

Finally, the target isn't even mandatory/enforceable.  It's voluntary.  The whole project is aimed towards educating farmers on how not to waste fertilizer and making sure it gets absorbed by crops, rather than wasted into the atmosphere.  Experiments around the world have shown that you can increase yields while decreasing nitrogen use when you're applying it properly and at the right times.  



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Not only are farmers facing this issue of reducing fertilizer use, but they have been heavily impacted by the carbon taxes.


If Canada’s reigning Liberal Party minority government sees its desired increases to the carbon tax come into force, the end result will be a six figure annual increase to the tax bill of the average farm. 

The figure was calculated by Western Canadian Wheat Growers President Gunter Jochum and told to Parliament during a Nov. 2 meeting of the Agriculture Committee.

“The government wants to increase the [carbon] tax, which would cost my farm a whopping $136,000 per year by 2030. This will jeopardize the viability and sustainability of my farm,” Jochum stated.  unquote

Carbon Tax to Cost Canadian Farmers Upwards of $100,000 Annually - Vision Times


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People still need food and if the cost of producing grains and foods goes up significantly, the end result will be that food prices will be greatly increased.  The costs of farming with the costs of machinery in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and various other expenses are already high.  The ordinary Canadians and the countries who are starving will be the ones most affected by the carbon taxes and fertilizer cuts and have to pay the price.  If anyone thinks the farmers will be the only ones affected, they are sadly mistaken.  Farmers have no choice but to include their costs and losses in the prices grains and produce are sold for.

Edited by blackbird
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The Sri Lankan gov't got heavily involved in deciding what fertilizers were best for their people:



Supplying required carbonic fertilizer and natural minerals and kilated herbal trace minerals for the Yala Season of 2021/2022. Sri Lanka Government has taken steps to ban the use and import of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to promote the use of organic fertilizers in the country. Accordingly, the Ministry of Agriculture has identified the need to take immediate action to supply the required organic fertilizer for the 2021/2022 Maha Season. 

At present there are 27 local organic fertilizer manufacturers licensed by the National Fertilizer Secretariat Office and considering the production capacity of ten of them, it is possible to supply carbonic fertilizer locally for 224,000 hectares for the 2021/2022 Maha Season and to manufacture the required carbonic fertilizer for another 100,000 hectares subsequently to make available of the required facilities for the identified farmers.

Sounds groovy baby, sign me up!



Fertiliser ban decimates Sri Lankan crops as government popularity ebbs

Their popularity ebbed, partly because Sri Lankans like to eat, and their government made that really hard to do:


AGBOPURA, Sri Lanka, March 3 (Reuters) - W.M. Seneviratne sat watching a mechanised harvester slice through the jade green fields around him


"Last year, we got 60 bags from these two acres. But this time it was just 10," he added.

The dramatic fall in yields follows a decision last April by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilisers in Sri Lanka - a move that risks undermining support among rural voters who are key to his family's grip on Sri Lankan politics.

Although the ban was rolled back after widespread protests, only a trickle of chemical fertilisers made it to farms, which will likely lead to an annual drop of at least 30% in paddy yields nationwide, according to agricultural experts.

By "popularity ebbs" they meant this lol:


In a stunning display of “people power”, massive crowds overcame large deployments of police and soldiers and other obstacles to storm the official residence and offices of the Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo on 9 July, leading the former to flee the country and both to agree to resign. Gotabaya’s eventual resignation on 14 July constitutes a major victory for Sri Lanka’s unprecedented island-wide protest movement. But these events leave an economy in freefall and a dysfunctional political system where the Rajapaksa family retains considerable influence. More political turbulence is to be expected.


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