Climate policy and Canadian crop production: A qualitative study of farmers’ attitudes and perceptions towards nitrous oxide reductions

The pressure to change agricultural practices in order to mitigate emissions is high, with persisting environmental, social, and economic dimensions. In December 2020, the Government of Canada released A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy, a climate plan that proposed Canada’s first national emission reduction target for the agricultural sector. This target aimed to reduce fertilizer-based emissions by 30 percent of 2020 levels by 2030. This target relies on the adoption of Best Management Practices for fertilizer use at the on-farm level. Choice to adopt the emission reduction strategies and practices is ultimately decided by the landowner, operator, and/or producer. The proposed target was met with significant resistance opposition from producers and producer groups across Canada’s agricultural sector, particularly in western Canada, with claims that the target was the equivalent to a ban on fertilizer.


This research aims to better understand the attitudes and perceptions towards the emission reduction target and more generally around emissions mitigation strategies within the crop sectors. This report takes a qualitative approach by conducting 26 h-long interviews with stakeholders along the production chain. Interviews with producers, geneticists, actors in crop inputs and manufacturing, and stakeholders in agricultural production policy and advocacy were conducted over July and August 2022. Participants were asked questions about climate change, the role of different levels of government in the development of emission regulations, potential strategies on a short- and long-term horizon basis, and incentives. Interviews were transcribed and categorically defined, highlighting reoccurring themes. These themes provide insight into awareness of different strategies considered by different actors within the agricultural supply chain, and potentially anticipate avenues which the Government of Alberta should prioritize in developing policies. Ensuring future protocols account for benchmarks of current agricultural operations and management is critical for accessible and producer-inclusive policy, that optimizes transition risks and secures the pathway forward, balancing the precarious equilibrium of burden on agricultural producers, food security, and sustainable, resilient agriculture.


Thursday, August 03, 2023

Elena Vinco, Nicole Morrison, Joshua Bourassa, Guillaume Lhermie.

Roundtable Proceedings: Energy in Agriculture

Alberta’s economy has been based historically on its abundant natural resources, particularly energy and agriculture. The agriculture and energy sectors in Canada are deeply interconnected, since energy is a key input in agricultural production and agriculture provides feedstocks for bioenergy and biofuels. As the world transitions towards a low-carbon economy, both sectors face challenges and opportunities for decarbonization, sustainability and innovation. The Simpson Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy hosted a roundtable event that aimed to promote cross-sectoral collaboration and problem-solving for energy optimization in the agricultural sector. The event showcased the latest research and initiatives for energy production and consumption on Canadian farms and explored optimized energy solutions through collaborations between energy and agriculture. The discussions centered around co-production of agriculture and energy, and featured entrepreneurs, researchers and representatives from government and industry. The ultimate goal was to provide farmers with accessible, relevant, and trustworthy information to support them in their journey towards diversification of their farm operations.


Friday, July 14, 2023

Hanan Ishaque, Amlika Nair

Roundtable Proceedings: Carbon in Agriculture

Canada is a major global food exporter, but the projected increase of 1.7 billion in the world’s population by 2050, accompanied by a corresponding increase in food demand, poses a challenge to the country. Its federal policy targets a 30 percent reduction in Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions from 2020 levels by 2030, with the ultimate goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Achieving these goals will impact the cost and competitiveness of Canadian agri-food products in the global market. This raises the question of whether feeding Canadians and the growing world population is more important than meeting emission reduction targets, or if both objectives can be achieved simultaneously.


Friday, July 14, 2023

Hanan Ishaque

Planning to Fail: A Case Study of Canada’s Fertilizer Based Emission Reduction Target

Target setting is an important step in the development of public policy. Targets provides a clear indication of the government’s policy objectives and priorities. They also provide stakeholders clear policy direction, enabling them to plan, monitor, and deliver on policy objectives. To be effective targets need to be well-defined, measurable, and achievable. This report examines the Government of Canada’s fertilizer-based emission reduction target using the criteria for effective targets. This report conducts a review the targets announcement and consultation, Industry repose to the target, and the methodology used to monitor success. This report concludes that while the targets goals of improving efficiency and optimizing nitrogen use are laudable, the measurement use make meeting the target impossible without reductions in nitrogen fertilizer, an action strongly opposed by producers and counter to the targets goal. Lastly the report provides suggestions as to where the methodology could be improved and areas to priorities in the short and long terms to be able to effectively set emission-based targets for 2050.


Friday, July 07, 2023

Joshua Bourassa, Nataliia Arman, Hannan Ishaque, Guillaume Lhermie

Beef Focus Group: Challenges Facing the Sector

The Simpson Centre ran a focus group in July 2022 to better understand how the Canadian
cattle industry is handling various challenges, how they interact with policy and their
short-term and long-term priorities. The focus group was made up of industry stakeholders
from various points throughout the supply chain. The discussions were recorded and then
analyzed and coded to determine the key points and develop policy recommendations.


Friday, May 26, 2023

Rachelle Drummond, Guillaume Lhermie, Caitland Reynolds, Elena Vinco, and Shawn Wiskar

Poultry Focus Group: Challenges Facing the Sector

The Canadian poultry industry is small but significant; chicken is the most consumed animal meat protein in the country, the consumption of which has increased with population growth and immigration from cultures that favour the meat over beef and pork. Meanwhile, the industry is under pressure to align with sustainability goals, specifically to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, to better understand the industry’s challenges and possible policy solutions to those challenges, the Simpson Centre assembled a focus group of industry stakeholders to discuss their opinions regarding the challenges facing Canadian poultry sector, along with how the sector interacts with policy, and their short-term and long-term priorities.


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Shawn Wiskar and Guillaume Lhermie