AgCanada rolling out $200-million initiative to cut agricultural emissions

Cover cropping, reducing nitrogen use, and rotational grazing to be promoted by new program

Reducing nitrogen use is one of the goals of AgCanada’s On-Farm Climate Action Fund.
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The federal government is looking for partners to help farmers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions — and is putting $200 million on the table for three “target areas.”

The three areas are cover cropping, nitrogen management, and rotational grazing practices, the government said in a release issued a few days before the federal election call.

“These three on-farm actions not only reduce GHG emissions but also offer farmers a cost-effective solution to improve soil health and achieve other environmental benefits,” said the release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

In announcing some details about the $200-million On-Farm Climate Action Fund (which was announced in the spring budget), the department tied the effort to reduce greenhouse gases and store carbon to this summer’s devastating and widespread drought across almost all of Western Canada.

“This year has demonstrated the extraordinary challenges farmers face on the front lines of climate change,” it said. “Extreme weather events, like this year’s drought, and other environmental impacts like challenges related to water availability and quality, soil health and biodiversity are projected to become more severe and costly for the sector in the coming decades.”

The programs funded by this initiative are “expected to reduce GHG emissions by up to two million tonnes by 2024, and by one million tonnes per year ongoing, compared to current projections, and bring a total of 792,000 hectares of land under improved management practices,” AgCanada’s release stated.

But who creates and runs the program is to be decided. AgCanada said “potential delivery partners” might include farm organizations, Indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, and provincial or territorial Crown corporations.

Inviting farm groups to help design and administer these programs is a good move, said the National Farmers Union, which said it has long “urged governments to partner with farmers to enhance grazing management, adopt cover crops, and, especially, to use nitrogen more efficiently and at lower rates.”

Although the specifics of the On-Farm Climate Action Fund programs won’t be known for a while, AgCanada did offer some broad details and said they will include “direct support to farmers.”

Those might include, for example, covering the cost of seeds and equipment for cover cropping and paying for agronomic services to develop farm-specific nutrient management plans (as well as “equipment modifications” and soil sampling). To promote rotational grazing, a program might cover some or all of fencing and water infrastructure costs, seeding and agronomic services.

“Producers are already taking proactive steps, but they need additional support in the face of the challenges they are experiencing and will continue to face,” Marcel Groleau, head of Quebec’s main farm group, Union des producteurs agricoles, said in the government release.

Interested organizations have until Sept. 26 to apply.

The government has pledged to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 — and to try to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It says agriculture currently accounts for 10 per cent of those emissions.

Overall, Ottawa plans to spend $4 billion on a national “climate solutions fund,” with a sizable chunk aimed at farming practices. In addition to the $200-million On-Farm Climate Action Fund, that includes $185 million for a Canada-wide network of regional collaborations led by farmers and including scientists and other stakeholders to co-develop and implement farming practices to tackle climate change; and $166 million for the Agricultural Clean Technology Program to support research, development and adoption of clean technologies.

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