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In a scathing review, the Auditor General has condemned the federal government for its handling of emission reduction efforts within the agriculture sector, citing mismanagement and a lack of transparency.

The report, titled “Agriculture and Climate Change Mitigation,” focused on programs overseen by Agri-Food Canada, with particular scrutiny on the government’s voluntary 2030 target for farmers to decrease fertilizer emissions by 30%.

According to the Auditor General, one of the primary issues highlighted was the absence of consultation with stakeholders, including farmers and industry associations, before establishing the fertilizer emission reduction target. 

This oversight led to confusion among sector stakeholders, with some interpreting the target as a mandate to reduce fertilizer usage by 30%, rather than a reduction in emissions through improved application techniques.

“We found that the department did not consult with stakeholders (for example, farmers and industry associations) prior to establishing the fertilizer emission reduction target,” the report wrote. 

Furthermore, despite plans to establish voluntary agreements with various stakeholders to achieve the reduction target, the government had failed to implement any such agreements by January 2024.

“To achieve the fertilizer emission reduction target, the department planned to establish voluntary agreements with fertilizer manufacturers, agricultural stakeholders, provinces, and farmers. However, we found that it had established none by January 2024,” wrote the Auditor General.

The report also revealed that the programs examined had not quantified expected greenhouse gas emission reductions and failed to track any relevant data. Additionally, a lack of long-term vision and direction from the government further muddled the path to achieving these targets.

Among the programs scrutinized were the Living Labs program and the On-Farm Climate Action Fund.

Criticism from farming groups, such as the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, has been constant. They’ve argued that the fertilizer emissions target would lead to reduced agricultural yield, directly conflicting with the government’s expectation for farmers to increase production to meet global food demands.

“Canada has set a target to increase agriculture exports from $55 billion in 2015 to at least $85 billion by 2025. This 55% increase will not be attainable if the federal government reduces nitrogen fertilizer use by 30%,” wrote the association.

In a document sent to Ottawa, the association outlined concerns about the feasibility of the government’s agricultural climate plan, particularly in light of global food security goals. 

The submission highlighted the disparity between the United Nations’ aim to eliminate world hunger by 2030 and Canada’s goal to increase agriculture exports by 55% by 2025, asserting that the proposed reduction in fertilizer use would undermine food security efforts.