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NDP joins Tories in ‘standing up for farmers in Manitoba’ by opposing federal fertilizer-emissions target

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In a rare show of solidarity, the NDP tacitly supported a Progressive Conservative resolution Friday that asks the federal government to abandon its “fertilizer-reduction strategy,” saying it is irresponsible in a time of food insecurity and high inflation.

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In a rare show of solidarity, the NDP tacitly supported a Progressive Conservative resolution Friday that asks the federal government to abandon its “fertilizer-reduction strategy,” saying it is irresponsible in a time of food insecurity and high inflation.

Ian Wishart, MLA for Portage La Prairie, introduced the private member’s resolution this week that now becomes the Manitoba government’s official position.

“We certainly want to stand up for farmers of Manitoba,” said Wishart, whose constituents include farmers and agri-food companies, such as french-fry maker McCain Foods, potato processor Simplot Canada, pea protein processor Roquette Canada Ltd. and oatmeal maker Richardson Pioneer.

The NDP did not oppose the Progressive Conservatives on the resolution denouncing the federal target for reducing fertilizer emissions.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Ian Wishart, MLA for Portage La Prairie, introduced the private member’s resolution asking the federal government to abandon its “fertilizer-reduction strategy,” saying it is irresponsible in a time of food insecurity and high inflation.

“Producers are struggling to deal with fertilizer costs that have shot up by 200 per cent, that’s a fact,” said NDP agriculture critic Diljeet Brar. “Any fertilizer targets should be backed by science and take into account how multinational corporations are price-gouging Manitoba farmers,” Brar said in a text message.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the target is “completely voluntary,” and took exception to the wording of Manitoba’s resolution.

“The Government of Canada has never imposed a reduction on the use of fertilizer,” she said in an email Thursday. “Fertilizer is essential for productivity in the agriculture sector and global food security.”

The federal target aims to reduce the emissions from fertilizers that contribute to greenhouse gases and climate change, one of the greatest threats to global food security, by 30 per cent, Bibeau said.

But reducing fertilizer emissions means reducing fertilizer use, Wishart said.

“The reality is, the science says you can’t do one without the other,” he said. “There are things that farmers can do to be more efficient with fertilizer and reduce emissions and they are doing that — mostly at their own expense — at this point in time, for their own reasons and because fertilizers are pretty expensive these days.

“Farmers are part of the solution when it comes to climate change, not part of the problem. We need to do some recognition of what they can do and what they’ve done in terms of reducing carbon and storing carbon.”

The federal government has announced $1.5 billion in funding for the agriculture sector to help producers adopt on-farm practices and clean technologies “that will build a sustainable, productive industry for generations to come,” Bibeau said.

“In recent years, agricultural producers in Canada have faced natural disasters that have drastically reduced their harvests, their ability to feed the world and the sustainability of their businesses,” she said, adding the 30 per cent target for cutting fertilizer emissions builds on actions producers are already taking to become more resilient.

Between 2005 and 2019, fertilizer use on Canadian farms increased by 71 per cent, the federal government said. Over the same period, fertilizer-related emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 365 times more potent, from a global warming perspective, than carbon dioxide) in Canada increased by 54 per cent. In 2019 alone, the application of nitrogen-based fertilizer resulted in 12.75 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent to that produced by 3.9 million passenger vehicles.

The government has said it believes the target is achievable, since many of the required technologies and practices to reduce emissions from fertilizer use already exist.

Wishart pointed to industry studies indicating that a target closer to half of what the federal government wants is achievable.

“Now’s not really the time to be reducing food production, especially when the world needs it and we’ve been making great strides in value-added agriculture in Manitoba,” he said.

Brar said the NDP wants to make life more affordable for farmers. “That’s why we are calling for a national inquiry into rising fertilizer costs,” he said.

Wishart said the tripling of nitrogen-based fertilizer costs is mainly due to the war in Ukraine and Russia being a major supplier of fertilizer.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

with file from Canadian Press

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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