As farmers protests rage in the Netherlands and beyond, the head of one of Canada’s premier agricultural groups is warning that strict domestic emissions targets could spur a similar reaction from the industry. 

Strict nitrogen and ammonia emissions caps by the Dutch government have sparked nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of farmers and their supporters have formed convoys throughout the country demanding a referendum on government measures. As a result of the chaos, farmers have even been fired upon by police.

According to President of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Gunter Jochum, Canadian farmers could also soon have their backs against the wall as a result of emission targets. 

“We have talked to other producer groups, we’re very concerned about exactly that same scenario. And will we go to these lengths like what’s happening in the Netherlands? I don’t know,” Jochum told True North. 

“But, you know, all I can say is, if you push farmers back right up against the wall where their livelihood is at stake and it’s a direct result of government overreach and non science based policies, then, who knows what could happen?” 

Two years ago, the Liberal government introduced a 30% emissions reduction target for fertilizer use in the agricultural industry. In comparison, the Netherlands has instituted a 50% emissions cut on nitrogen and ammonia emissions by 2030. 

“The fertilizer target’s objective is to contribute to lower GHG emissions from the agriculture sector, building on and leveraging public and private programs and initiatives,” an Agriculture Canada discussion document writes. 

“The target applies to both direct (following fertilizer application) and indirect (from nitrogen leached from fields and volatilized to the atmosphere as ammonia) emissions from the application of fertilizer.”

As exclusively reported by True North, Agriculture Canada also signalled out the wheat industry as being among the worst emissions offenders when it comes to fertilizer use. 

According to Jochum, targets on fertilizer do not adequately take into account how efficient its use already is, leaving some agricultural producers with little wiggle room when it comes to reducing emissions. 

“I have a real problem with just blanket saying we need to reduce fertilizer use by X amount percent when there isn’t really real baselines established,” Jochum told True North.

“Now all these grains take different amounts of fertilizer and so to just say, ‘Okay, we’ll reduce it based on this year, and that tonnage,’ would be very foolish. The other problem is each crop and each weather event, each different types of fertilizer and (every scenario has) different emissions.” 

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