Optimism was guarded heading into the federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers’ meeting last week, considering how the Conservatives and Liberals are at odds over climate change (and most other things).
And sure enough, the predictable piling-on quickly followed the meeting. While the federal government was touting its success, noting an additional $500 million had been agreed upon for Canadian agriculture, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan warned that Ottawa had ignored farmers’ pleas for a more moderate approach to greenhouse gas reduction related to agriculture.
Then a new angle emerged. The Liberal plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions arising from fertilizer use by 30 per cent below 2020 levels by 2030 would not only hammer farmers here, but consumers around the world, according to naysayers.
“As our farmers work to feed Canada and the world, we need to work with them and support their ongoing efforts to grow and produce the food we need,” said Ontario’s Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “The federal government needs to be true partners, rather than simply imposing targets that make it harder.”
Grain Farmers of Ontario joined in.
“Agriculture productivity and competitiveness have become more important than ever as global food shortages are worsening, and geopolitical events are impacting the world’s agriculture market. Canada’s farmers have a role to play in helping feed people around the world and Canadians,” said Brendan Byrne, chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario.
He thought the FPT meeting outcomes were tone deaf.
“The world has changed drastically since the last time the group met and this agreement does not reflect the new realities facing Canada, the world and farmers,” he said.“We are concerned that there is no priority on helping to mitigate global food shortages.”
The meeting took place in Saskatoon. Co-host David Marit, Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister, joined in a communique from all ministers, including federal minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, saying they’d covered a lot of ground. Bibeau pointed to a new $250 million cost-shared initiative called the Resilient Agriculture Landscape Program, which addresses a key concern from farmers and ranchers that they were not being compensated for emission reductions they were being asked to make.
“This program will play a key role in rewarding farmers and ranchers for their environmental stewardship and contribute to the reduction in emissions from the sector,” said Bibeau.
Marit chimed in.“As the provincial-territorial co-chair, we are pleased with the increased funding all parties have committed to today…I believe we have found the proper balance between economic and environmental objectives to ensure our industry remains globally competitive,” he said.
But he later issued a separate statement saying his province is still rankled.
“We’re really concerned with this arbitrary (30 per cent) goal,” he said. “The Trudeau government has apparently moved on from their attack on the oil and gas industry and set their sights on Saskatchewan farmers.”
And so continues the politicization of the environment. Ottawa is being unrealistic, says farmers. Farmers need to step up their efforts, says Ottawa.
Something has to give, and will.