“Let them eat cake” seems to be the message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The princely prime minister wrapped up meetings Friday with provincial ministers, and signaled he will move ahead to reduce the allowable use of fertilizer by Canadian farmers as his next step in fighting climate change.
The Trudeau government wants a 30% reduction in emissions, but farming experts say that reducing nitrous oxide emissions can’t be done without reducing fertilizer use, which will hurt their ability to stay in the farming business. Farmers also say this will result in less food being produced by Canada and will lead to food shortages at a time when there are already global food shortages.
In 2021, the agriculture and agri-food system employed 2.1 million people, provided 1 in 9 jobs in Canada, generated $134.9 billion (around 6.8%) of Canada’s gross domestic product, according to the Canadian government.
“The world is looking for Canada to increase production and be a solution to global food shortages. The Federal government needs to display that they understand this,” said Alberta Agriculture Minister Nate Horner. “They owe it to our producers.”
Horner said that this year’s crops are the most expensive that have ever been planted, “following a very difficult year on the prairies.”
“We’re really concerned with this arbitrary goal,” said Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture David Marit. “The Trudeau government has apparently moved on from their attack on the oil and gas industry and set their sights on Saskatchewan farmers.”
Fertilizer emissions reduction was not on the agenda of the annual meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers of agriculture. Provinces pushed the federal government to discuss this topic, and were disappointed to learn that Trudeau had already set the 30% target.
“The commitment to future consultations are only to determine how to meet the target that Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister [Marie-Claude] Bibeau have already unilaterally imposed on this industry, not to consult on what is achievable or attainable,” the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan said in a combined statement. Bibeau is the nation’s agriculture minister.
“Western Canadian farmers already produce the most sustainable agri-food products in the world, and they’re continually being asked to do more with less. We cannot feed the growing world population with a reduction in fertilizer,” the provincial leaders said. “Western Canadian producers base fertilizer inputs on realistic targets based on moisture availability. Producers are conservative in the use of fertilizer inputs and don’t add more than what is needed. They alone simply cannot shoulder the impact of this shortsighted policy.”
Canada is a net exporter of food staples such as grain. It has 0.5% of the global population, but produces about 1.5% of the food in the world, while consuming about 0.6% of world food production.
Sri Lanka has been the test kitchen for the organic-only policy. In 2021, President Rajapaksa banned synthetic fertilizer and pesticide imports, which forced the millions of farmers in that country to go organic, practically overnight. The result has been disastrous, with major food shortages, social unrest, and ultimately a protest that took over the capital and forced the resignation of the government.
Sri Lankan scientists and agriculture experts had warned of dire consequences for many crops, such as cocoa, coffee, soybeans, and other staples.
in Sri Lanka, rice production dropped 20 percent in the six months after the organic-only policy was implemented. Instead of feeding itself, the country spent $450 million on rice imports. The production of tea, which is the country’s biggest export, fell by 18 percent. The population of Sri Lanka is now facing imminent starvation.