National | Media Release

NFU applauds government for taking action on nitrogen fertilizer emissions

Woodlawn, ON—On December 11, the federal government released its plan: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy: Canada’s Strengthened Climate Plan to Create Jobs and Support People, Communities, and the Planet.  As part of that plan, the federal government will:

Set a national emission reduction target of 30% below 2020 levels from fertilizers and work with fertilizer manufacturers, farmers, provinces, and territories, to develop an approach to meet it.

Canadian agriculture emissions are rising, and that increase is driven entirely by increasing emissions from nitrogen fertilizer use.  (Emissions from on-farm fossil-fuel combustion and livestock are stable or falling.)  In the Prairie provinces, nitrogen use tonnage has doubled over the past three decades.  Nitrogen fertilizer is unique among all human materials and processes, in that it is a major contributor of all three main greenhouse gases (GHGs): nitrous oxide, in its use; carbon dioxide, in its manufacture; and methane, from its natural gas feedstock. 

NFU President Katie Ward welcomed the announcement, saying: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian agriculture means reducing emissions from nitrogen fertilizer.  Farmers are very pleased that the federal government has set a reduction target.  We now look forward to working with government to develop the policies, programs, and incentives that will enable farmers to reach that goal.”

The NFU is a founding member of Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS).  The NFU and FCS are working to develop policies and programs that can enable farmers to maintain crop yields and increase net incomes while reducing input use and emissions.  The NFU believes there are many ways that farmers can be supported to reduce nitrogen use, including federal policies and programs to:

  • Hire independent, public-servant agrologists to work with farmers to reduce fertilizer tonnage and input use overall while maintaining adequate yields;
  • Fund additional soil sampling and other monitoring and data collection to measure in-crop and end-of-year residual nitrogen levels and fertilizer-related emissions;
  • Assist all farmers in developing nutrient-management plans, adopting fertilizer efficiency measures such as 4R*, and finding alternatives to synthetic nitrogen;
  • Mandate fertilizer manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide and methane emissions at production facilities; and
  • Increase support for alternative production systems such as organic, regenerative, and agroecological—helping farmers obtain fertility from biological rather than industrial sources.

“Farmers want to do our part to reduce Canadian emissions and to meet our international climate commitments.  We welcome this announcement from the federal government and look forward to partnering with them.  But we need to ensure that adequate federal and provincial funds are allocated to reaching this goal and that all policies and programs function to support and increase net farm income,” concluded the NFU President.

*4R means the right fertilizer formulation, at the right time, in the right place, at the right rate.

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For More Information:

Katie Ward, NFU President: (613) 797-0601

Darrin Qualman, NFU Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action: (306) 230-9115

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