Appendix 1: Environmentally-Sustainable Agriculture

Transitioning to Environmentally Sustainable Land Management and Food Production in Canada in the Next Policy Framework

The Green Budget Coalition envisions a future in which Canada is viewed as a leader in sustainable agriculture and food with a resilient and diversified food system. Canada has many natural advantages and a strong reputation as a producer of high- quality agricultural products. Building on this reputation with a scientifically credible sustainability record is an economic, environmental and social opportunity for Canada. Failing to seize this opportunity could result in Canada being forced to comply with international standards which do not always appropriately account for Canadian production and environmental realities. We believe we can do this while growing a strong agriculture and food sector which employs one in eight Canadians and supports biodiversity and agrobiodiversity.

Farmers and ranchers want to be part of the climate solution but we need the right public policies, market signals, and strategic investments to help them realize this potential.

Canada has made important steps nationally and internationally to advance sustainable production systems. The Green Budget Coalition believes that sustainability is a journey of continuous improvement. Canadian agriculture has demonstrated leadership in the past and, with the right encouragement, can champion new paths to sustainability. Adapting to new scientific information and adopting new practices proven to strengthen resilience will be key to Canada’s future.

Canada’s agriculture sector has the potential to become a world leader in meeting international targets such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and CBD Biodiversity Targets, by delivering ecological goods and services and social benefits, including gender equality, food security, economic development, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and support for the next generation of farmers. For this to happen, Canada must bring its agricultural environmental investments up to internationally- competitive levels. Currently, Canada spends only 70 cents per acre on agri-environmental programs, whereas the U.S. spends $8.47 and the European Union spends $51.75 per acre (respectively 13 and 73 times more than Canada).120 To be a leader, Canada needs to close this gap.

Consultations on the Next Policy Framework (NPF)

The federal government has invested significantly in science and technology to spur growth in the agriculture industry in Canada and to provide risk management tools to ensure business viability. However, the federal government has made very little investment in public research, expanding extension services or reducing environmental risk by building agricultural resilience to climate change — crucial investments to reduce on- farm business risks and ensure stable livelihoods for farmers.

We believe that existing Business Risk Management (BRM) programs do not provide adequate protection for Canadian farmers and ranchers from climate change. This is particularly evident when Canada’s BRM programming is compared with competing countries such as the United States. These higher levels of protection provided to farmers outside Canada comes with additional expectations. The Green Budget Coalition recommends the government explore a more robust and transparent program of risk management for Canadian farmers and ranchers that also delivers environmental and social outcomes. All stakeholders, including researchers, insurance experts, local authorities, and civil society organizations should be engaged in this discussion alongside farmers and ranchers.

To achieve a transformational shift in the environmental impacts of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry, the Next Policy Frameworks’(NPF) programs must be adapted to focus and support the adoption of ecological best practices including new and innovative approaches to agri-food production and processing. The development of the next Agricultural Policy Framework should lay out a vision for sustainable agriculture in Canada, including targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction, adaptation of the sector to changing and unpredictable weather conditions, and strengthening resilience through diversification. The NPF should include a well-developed agri-environmental strategy, in which disbursements for agri-environmental programs take up a growing share of resources every year of the partnership. The NPF should prioritize areas such as soil health which are known to have both economic and environmental benefits to farmers. Canada should prioritize development of a national soil strategy to guide work in this important area.

All Canadians benefit from our dynamic agriculture sector, and the costs of adaptation and mitigation should not be borne by farmers and ranchers alone but alleviated by public programs designed to help farmers transition to production practices that will build on- farm resilience. As consumers increasingly demonstrate awareness and concern about the environmental impact of their food, certification regimes will gain support and acceptance across the marketplace. These standards and increased transparency along the entire food chain could create significant risks for Canadian producers. Taking proactive steps now to address the practices that undermine environmental sustainability and public trust could turn ecological standards into a competitive advantage for Canadian producers.

Recommendations:

The Green Budget Coalition recommends that the Government of Canada publicly commit to making transition to sustainable agricultural production a primary focus of its negotiations for the renewal of the Next Policy Framework in 2023. In preparation for these negotiations, the Green Budget Coalition recommends that the government, led by AAFC, assess the efficacy of environmental strategies and risk management in agricultural support programs in comparable countries. FTP negotiations should focus
on developing a comprehensive and ambitious agri-environmental strategy adapted to Canada’s different regions and production systems, covering soil health, adoption of science-based stewardship models such as 4R and IPM, natural ecosystem preservation, diversification, and GHG reductions. The Green Budget Coalition recommends allocating $1 million of existing funding (over two years) to implement this strategy through FPT negotiations.

In the 2023 renewal, the Green Budget Coalition also recommends that the Government of Canada:

  • Set an ambitious target for the reduction of GHGs for the sector as a whole to ensure that agriculture is contributing its fair share to our climate targets and that farmers are supported in their efforts to reduce emissions;
  • Ensure that consultations for the next FTP policy framework include a broad range of stakeholders, including ENGOs, academics, and consumer groups;
  • Develop a new and ambitious agri-environmental strategy to support producers of all sizes and types in all regions of the country to progressively adopt more environmentally sustainable practices over the five years of the partnership;
  • Seek to identify and eliminate, within the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and BRM, perverse subsidies for activities that directly or indirectly cause unnecessary environmental harm;
  • Enhance the transparency and accessibility of data on BRM premiums and payouts;
  • Incentivize transition to best management practices (BMPs) by reducing premiums for risk insurance when climate-friendly practices may entail economic risks for farmers in the short term or by changing how costs are shared;
  • Strategically re-invest in public sector extension advisors for $100 million per year to facilitate better knowledge transfer;
  • Target 10% of total BRM investment towards incentivizing agro-ecological transitions; and
  • Devote 40% of all NPF expenditure to research, programs, and investments that are consistent with conservation, sustainable, and regenerative agricultural principles and practices.

See also Soil Health recommendation, earlier in this document.

Contact

Marc-André Viau – maviau@equiterre.org