Federal Climate Policies, Fertilizer Plan, Will Cause Devastation, Say Saskatchewan Farmers

Federal Climate Policies, Fertilizer Plan, Will Cause Devastation, Say Saskatchewan Farmers
A farmer prepares machinery to spray herbicide on a field near Mossbank, Saskatchewan, in a file photo. (CP Photo/Adrian Wyld)
Lee Harding

Farmers in Saskatchewan, a province that has nearly half of Canada’s arable land, say production will fall sharply if they are forced to use less fertilizer and pay increasingly high carbon taxes on fuel.

The government is moving ahead with its goal, first announced in December 2020, to reduce absolute levels of greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer use by 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. Specifically, it aims to reduce nitrous oxide emissions associated with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use.
However, a report by Fertilizer Canada, which represents the fertilizer industry, says a 30 percent emission reduction for a farmer with 1,000 acres of canola and 1,000 acres of wheat would cut their profits by between $38,000 and $40,500 annually. Nationwide, this would mean $400 million of lost profit for wheat farmers and $441 million lost profit for canola producers.
A September 2021 report by consulting firm MNP calculated that Canadian canola, corn, and spring wheat farmers would lose a total of $48 billion in profits between 2023 and 2030 based on the premise that using 20 percent less fertilizer over that period would mean 30 percent less emissions by 2030. This loss far exceeds the $550 million over 10 years the federal government has announced to help farmers meet emission targets.

In the town of Abbey, Sask., Brian Bonogofski sells agricultural equipment and has six quarter-sections of farmland. He says the federal measures are “an attack on mainly the West” that provokes farmers.

“They’re probably the most easygoing people that are out there until you back them into the corner, and then they’ve got to come for your jugular,” he said in an interview. “They’ve got to because they’re proud of producing food for Canadians, for the world.”

According to the latest statistics from the World Bank, in 2018 Canada had 38,687,000 hectares of arable land, the third-highest among countries in the world. Provincially, Statistics Canada reported in 2017 that Saskatchewan had 46.8 percent of crop land, followed by Alberta at 26.8 and Manitoba at 12.7.

“It’s time the city people understand the severity of what is going to happen if we have a 30 percent cutback in fertilizer, in land usage—even electric tractors and combines, stuff like that. The productivity is definitely going to drop,” Bonogofski said.

“You’re not going to buy food. You can have $5 million set aside for your grocery bill for tomorrow, but if [there’s no food] on that shelf, you’re not going to get it.”

Bonogofski predicts that lowering fertilizer use will be “devastating” for production. He thinks federal policies will do more to destroy people than save the Earth or the climate.

“We’re getting into too much government interference with a lot of things that we do, a lot of government involvement where it shouldn’t be. The loss is going to outweigh the savings. Put it that way, because you’re talking lives, you’re talking more people going hungry at night,” he said.

“It’s a concern when you got a country that’s trying to supply food to not only Canada, but the world. It doesn’t take long before you’re short-supplied. And last year, our supplies were already low in most commodities.”

Soaring Diesel Costs

The current carbon tax of $50 per tonne will rise to $170 by 2030. Farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, where Ottawa administers the carbon tax, will receive federal rebates. However, according to the Grain Growers of Canada, those farmers won’t benefit equally from the rebate program and some will only get 20 to 30 percent of their carbon tax back. The Clean Fuel Standard will come into effect July 1, 2023, and increase the costs of gasoline and diesel by up to 13 cents per litre by 2030.

That’s not good news to Douglas Davidson, who says diesel costs are soaring at his farm south of Swift Current.

“My first batch of diesel I bought in 2020 at 43.9 cents a litre. I had them topped off again here about a month ago, and that was at $1.739 a litre,” Davidson told The Epoch Times.

“If we’re in full go-mode, I can run through 1,000 litres per day, 2,000 litres some days. So just do the math.”

Demonstrations followed a ban on chemical fertilizers in Sri Lanka and policies to reduce nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions in the Netherlands. Davidson says he’s “on board with them boys” protesting in the Netherlands because of the severe consequences for farmers.

“They’re getting cut down severely, like they’re going to lose their livelihood and their property and everything,” he said.

“I don’t necessarily think we’re talking about Dutch farmers. I think we’re talking about farming in general—it’s all coming from the same place. Trudeau has got the same plans for Canada. And they will actually do this all over the world until they’re stopped.”

John Graff, a sheep farmer in the Whitewood area east of Regina, is concerned about the pledge Canada and 50 other countries made in January 2021 to set aside 30 percent of the land and oceans in the name of biodiversity protection.

“Those are already signed, sealed, and delivered—finished things. The difference is that the Netherlands farmers know about it and are doing something. The Canadian farmer doesn’t know, and therefore isn’t doing anything about it,” Graff said in an interview.

“I cannot believe that the policy-makers would be this foolish or ill-informed to make decisions like this.”

Graff says chemical fertilizers are essential to high-intensity food production, but government policies are also undermining alternatives.

“They’re also going after livestock producers, so that reduces the amount of manure available. Organic production can only keep up production levels through the use of manures and plowed-down [crops], like clovers and alfalfa. But in doing so they take land out of production for a year to do the plow-down, and then they only maintain just sustainable production levels in subsequent years.

“So whatever way you cut this fertilizer, there is no argument where you can produce enough food to feed the world.”

‘No Common Sense Whatsoever’

Blair Brost, a farmer near Maple Creek in southwest Saskatchewan, can’t understand the logic behind the policies.

“You really wonder where these people get their information from. I don’t know. They have no common sense whatsoever. Like, the tail is wagging the dog or something. None of it makes any sense at all,” Brost told The Epoch Times.

“They could have dealt with this cheaply and been way better for the environment than what they’re doing by just taxing the crap out of everybody and starving them out of their homes. There’s so many simple things that you can do to get past this hump, but they just seem to be digging the hole deeper and faster than we can keep up.”

Brost says planting trees would be far more effective at addressing carbon issues. He says if Canadians swallow “carbon B.S.” instead of food, “they’re going to pay dearly for it and they’re going to get hungry.” He says farmers are trying to minimize their inputs already.

“They’re trying to grow as much crop as they can—because land prices are insane—as cheaply as they can, with a maximum amount of production. And that maximum amount of production takes a maximum amount of carbon out of the air because plants need carbon to grow,” he said.

“This carbon thing is the greatest kick-start for a domino effect,” he adds, referring to the pressure the tax is putting on farmers.

“If [Trudeau] goes after the farmers and hits them hard with high carbon taxes and stuff, they'll just walk away. A lot of these guys are only running on such a tight wire that they’re only two bad crops away from bankruptcy at any given moment. And they’ve already had two bad ones.”