Farmers for Climate Solutions, wants to push the Canadian government to make agricultural climate solutions more of a priority.
Farmers for Climate Solutions is a national alliance of farmer organizations and supporters who believe that agriculture must be part of the solution to climate change.
The coalition includes thousands of farmers across the country, and it is led by an alliance of groups such as the Canadian Organic Growers and the National Farmers Union (not the American organization). One of the project’s goals is to get the government to direct more funding to support agricultural methods focused on reducing emissions, enhancing soil health and increasing biodiversity.
Agriculture accounts for around 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Canadian government. Less than one percent of Canadians farm and the average age of those who do farm in Canada is rising. Last year, Canadian farmers owed an estimated $106 billion in debt.
The Farmers for Climate Transition coalition asked to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to put the agricultural sector on the right track to reduce their CO2 emissions, which represents nearly 10% of the national total.
They remind us that the Covid -19 related headlines have captured vulnerabilities and raised alarm bells among Canadians: outbreaks at beef-packing plants and bottlenecks in the meat supply chain; dairy farmers dumping milk; Canadian potatoes deteriorating in storehouses and contracts cut on the eve of a new season; ongoing farm labour shortages exacerbated by border closures; farm workers falling ill and dying.
The government’s response to date has been rapid and commendable, but has mostly focused on temporary deferral of debt repayment or increased access to credit.
Smart, forward-thinking and lasting COVID-19 recovery should prioritize climate resilience in agriculture.
Farmers are ready to take the lead in spreading low-input, low-emissions agricultural systems, but they need support. Governments have a key role to play in helping farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change.
In an article with the Journal de Montreal, “The COVID-19 pandemic represents an excellent opportunity to integrate agriculture into the solution to climate change, and to improve the resilience of our farmers to future repercussions which we will not escape,” said the owner of Gerville farm in Baie-du-Febvre.
"The current pandemic highlights the need to improve the resilience of the food supply in Canada, in a sector that was already struggling to cope with the impact of climate change," explained Mélina Plante, owner of the farm Les Bontés de la Vallée in the same JDM article. Farmers want to build a more resilient agricultural sector, but we won't do it alone. Decision-makers must follow our recommendations."
The coalition therefore proposed that Ottawa support them in the possibility of producing green energies on their land, thanks to wind, solar or biomass, to offer incentives to adopt climate-friendly practices, to reward farmers who reduce their climate risk and support the next generation of farmers.
The agricultural sector is particularly affected in 2020. In addition to the pandemic which limits the number of workers in the fields, farmers have had to deal with extreme weather effects, such as drought, floods and hail storms.
Climate change can disrupt food availability, reduce access to food, and affect food quality. For example, projected increases in temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, changes in extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability may all result in reduced agricultural productivity.
"As stewards of the land, farmers understand the importance of protecting our environment. Farmers also understand that their livelihoods will be disproportionately affected by climate change. Across the country, crops lie unharvested under snow, late frosts kill blossoms on fruit trees, extreme weather events damage crops and soil, and droughts become more and more frequent. As climate change escalates, these challenges will worsen."
“A better future starts on the farm: Recommendations for recovery from COVID-19 in Canadian agriculture” outlines five ways to support farmers recovering from the pandemic while helping them deal with the long-term effects of the climate crisis, too.