Imagine farming with more drought, more wind and more hail. Those are
some reasons farmers should worry about climate change, natural
resources minister Ralph Goodale told the recent Canadian Federation of
Agriculture annual meeting.
"Most of the available models predict that the world can expect more
severe and more frequent climatic change," he said. "We all need to
move more decisively to mitigate the threat." Goodale urged more
participation by the agricultural industry in meeting the climate
change challenge. He said producers should be concerned because they
could face a significant amount of adaptation.
Agriculture generates at least 10 percent of Canada's greenhouse gas
emissions, which are causing climate change, he said. Identifying
agricultural soils as carbon sinks is one way Canada can help meet its
Kyoto Protocol commitment to reduce emissions to six percent below 1990
levels between 2008 and 2012.
"Work done by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada indicates that, within a
few short years, agricultural soils will have shifted from being a net
source of greenhouse gases to a net sink," Goodale said. He added that
Canada has made progress in having agricultural soils recognized, but
officials need more research and arguments to convince other countries.
"The Canadian position is clear," Goodale told delegates. "We see the
carbon-storing capacity of the soil as a tremendous opportunity for
farmers around the world to be part of the climate change solution." He
said agriculture research needs to be broadened to include climate
change factors. For example, work on soil conservation, the use of
pesticides and fertilizers, water quality and manure management all
have greenhouse gas implications.
Research has shown that reduced tillage and less summerfallow help
soils incorporate carbon dioxide. Goodale said including sinks in the
climate change equation would be incentive for sound land management,
and an accompanying improvement in soil quality, plant production,
water conservation and the bottom line. Ken Kelly, a delegate from the
Ontario Federation of Agriculture, asked Goodale if there would be any
tangible compensation for early action by farmers. Goodale said that is
being discussed as part of a crediting system for early action by any
"If we can produce such a program ... that would be a very green
program," Kelly said. Delegates passed a resolution calling on the CFA
to lobby for minimum-till agriculture to be recognized as a carbon
sink, and to lobby against increasing input costs through a carbon tax
without compensating farmers for the carbon they are removing. OFA
delegate Sharon Rounds said large corporations shouldn't be given
credit for work done in other countries.
"We feel that we have the best carbon sink mechanism," she said. "We're
dreaming in technicolor when we think we can plant rainforests in other
countries." Bob Down, also from Ontario, said it's "time to get our oar
in the water on this issue."
Delegates heard that same message from Chris Pierce of the Canadian
Association of Petroleum Producers. He told them to be innovative in
how they plan to live and work in a carbon-constrained world. "Make
sure your voices are being heard in Ottawa," he said.
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