The Farming Footprint

By Nick Dunn

There has been a lot of discussion recently on how the agricultural industry will be affected by the world gaining more recognition towards carbon. This specifically spiked when our Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, brought forward his fertilizer plan. His plan is to achieve a 30% fertilizer reduction below 2020 levels by 2030.  

The world’s population is close to 8 billion people, and we do not have enough food to feed everyone as it stands. Here in Canada, we are fortunate to be able to produce far more than we can consume, which makes us a reliable country for feeding the future. In conjunction with Guilbeault’s plan, the federal government has a goal to increase international agri-food trade to $75 billion by 2025 (which was surpassed in 2021 by $7 billion) mainly led by unexpected global issues. To support feeding the world’s population and maintain Canada’s export expectations, we rely on synthetic fertilizers. Fertilizer use is essential for crop production and along with other technological advances, has allowed us to increase yields over the past 40 years. It gives us a fighting chance. 

With this plan, Canadian farmers could potentially lose $48 billion in revenue, according to a study from Fertilizer Canada, due to reduced yields. Reduced fertilizer use goes hand in hand with reduced yields. Globally, there are some other similar climate change policies being brought to the table. If many follow suit, there will be food shortages that we have never seen before. If you thought food was expensive today, I’m afraid to tell you the future doesn’t look any brighter. In fact, the worst is yet to come. Does Ottawa want to be a contributor to starting a global food crisis? 

For those who are in the agricultural industry, it’s important to bring awareness to what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Our federal government is overlooking the consequences with these erratic goals and propositions due to a lack of knowledge. The agricultural industry has been making changes to better the quality of the soil and air without impacting productivity and this seems to be unrecognized. We’re stewards. We want to leave the land in better shape than when we received it. This is part of our succession plan: to promote longevity. The fertilizer industry already promotes the use of the 4R Nutrient Management plan, which is intended to improve fertilizer use and efficacy. The right source, right rate, right time and in the right place is a guide to promote efficient farming practices and help keep nutrients in the soil. Not only does this model help the pockets of our producers, but it has been proven to lower emissions. When we put fertilizer in the ground with the 4R stewardship model, we’re essentially replacing what we are removing with harvest, whether it be removed from the seed or the straw. If we didn’t, we would be considered soil miners, not producers. After long periods of abusing soil quality, we wouldn’t be able to produce anything. There are many other advancements that producers have incorporated to help reduce emissions like Implementing diesel exhaust fluid into equipment, feed and manure management, crop rotation, and reduced tillage. The Flagstaff County Agriculture Service Board (ASB), along with many other ASBs throughout Alberta, have been writing letters to the provincial and federal governments to reconsider how this goal is measured and achieved. Consider our world, country, economy, and industry.   

Nick Dunn is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.