A group representing rural municipalities in Saskatchewan projects that wheat and canola farmers in Western Canada could lose $841 million in revenues should they adopt the Liberal government’s 30% fertilizer emission reduction target.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) has raised a red flag over the federal government’s emission reduction strategy, which calls for a 30% absolute nitrogen fertilizer emission reduction below 2020 levels by 2030.

SARM claims the target has been imposed without prior consultation with the fertilizer industry or the farmers who would bear the brunt of its economic consequences.

“In 2021, Saskatchewan agriculture exports were the largest on record, with total international sales of $17.5 billion,” wrote SARM in a bulletin. 

“This was put into jeopardy when the federal government signaled that it would require a reduction of nitrous oxide as a part of an emissions reduction strategy.” 

SARM used modeling software to estimate that canola revenues would drop by $441 million and wheat revenues would fall by $400 million. For farmers with at least 1,000 acres of each crop, it would cost $38,000 to $40,500 in lost revenue for individual producers. 

While Ottawa insists the voluntary target would not require farmers to sacrifice yields, several groups have pointed out to the federal government that any reduction in emissions would not be possible without drastic cuts to fertilizer use. 

Earlier this year, a report by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy disputed the government’s assertions. 

“The proposed target (is) unachievable without drastic reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use,” wrote the report’s authors. 

“Given the variation in climate and production across the country, a one size fits all approach is unlikely to be effective. Provincial governments and organizations should be encouraged to develop regional solutions to meet national objectives, with the (federal government) providing coordination and support.”

As exclusively reported by True North, even internal Agriculture and Agri Food Canada (AAFC) analysis determined that the plan would unfairly target Western Canada and harm farm production yields. 

“It will be more challenging in Western Canada to reduce both direct and indirect fertilizer emissions, due to a combination of lower nitrogen application rates, as well as dried conditions, hence it is less likely that rates can be reduced in Western Canada without impacting yields,” wrote an internal AAFC Preliminary Science-Based Assessment. 

SARM also accused the Liberal government of violating UN commitments including the goal of eliminating world hunger by 2030, as well as Ottawa’s own target of increasing agricultural exports to $85 billion by 2025. 

“This would be devastating, such that any plan to reduce carbon emissions would need to be done in a way that the future productivity of major crops is maintained,” wrote SARM.