Erin Gowriluk, Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada – Spring 2022 Pulse Beat
FOLLOWING OUR MOST recent federal election, it should come as no surprise that the conversation around sustainability and environmental stewardship has moved to the forefront.
While this is not a new phenomenon, it is no longer an option to face the future and the daunting prospects of climate change without a stated plan.
In Canada, our grain farmers are equipped for this conversation. Our farmers already sequester millions of tonnes of carbon in their soil and are constantly evolving to reflect the best practices for soil and environmental sustainability. But this does not mean that we can sit back or rest on our laurels.
The reality is that, with or without farmer input, our federal government is planning to implement policies aimed at reducing emissions, among their several other environmental objectives.
As the voice of grain farmers in Ottawa, our organization has already been planning for this and working with decision-makers and legislators to impart the message that farmers are part of the climate change solution — and should have a seat at the table when it comes to making policy.
The good news is that farmers across Canada already operate sustainably and, with continued investment in innovation, will be able to continually improve their environmental footprint in the decades ahead.
There is no solution to climate change that does not involve the stewardship of millions of acres of privately managed farmland.
And it offers tremendous potential as a natural climate solutions provider if programs are designed alongside farmers for their mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, right now, the conversation on climate change policy in Canada is being led by groups that do not have the best interests of our grain, pulse and oilseed farmers in mind.
While not ideal, this is a natural consequence of the fact that the current government is more ideologically aligned with these groups. Secondly, and more importantly, they have provided the government with the political cover necessary to implement their ideas by providing more detailed, data-driven solutions for the government to embrace.
From our side, this has to change.
Farmers should be the ones driving forward practical solutions. They are the ones who should be aiding the government in implementing policies that achieve these shared environmental objectives, while simultaneously aiding the profitability of grain growers — not hindering it.
Collaboration between industry, government and academia is the key component to reaching these climate goals.
A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
If you look to our friends across the Atlantic, you can see that these conversations are having a very real impact everywhere. These international examples also offer a way forward for us on this side of the pond — should we choose to act.
Perhaps the best example is in the United Kingdom (U.K.) with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU)… “no, not the Canadian one.” Their country’s largest farmer advocacy organization experienced the same sentiments and made a place for themselves at the table.
By embracing a future-focused and solutions-based approach, the U.K.’s NFU created a plan that identified immediate opportunities, associated best management practices, and included a role for government to incentivize those practices. The plan fit under three pillars:
- Pillar 1 — Boosting productivity and reducing emissions
- Pillar 2 — Farmland carbon storage
- Pillar 3 — Coupling bioenergy to carbon capture, utilization and storage
By being deliberate and anticipating the sea-change in sentiments, U.K. farmers changed the conversation and achieved widespread adoption of their aspirations for a net-zero contribution to climate change across the whole of agricultural production by 2040.
This was accomplished while leaving some flexibility in their approach for every farm to start the journey to net-zero from a different place and with their own unique action plan. Canada may differ greatly in both population and climate, but the circumstances are not all that different.
While farms across the country have been improving their sustainability and lowering their environmental impact for years, this government has no interest in rewarding work previously done. They care about the next 25 years — and so do we.
With that in mind, Grain Growers of Canada are ready to provide leadership as we move into this next phase and we will articulate the needs and wants of our members to create a framework that makes sense for everyone.
Either we lead the conversation about what it is coming or we risk having an approach dictated to us. Let’s get to work. ■