Soil Health

Climate and agricultural policy should aim to help tens of thousands more farmers implement better management practices that protect soil health, delivering both environmental and economic benefits. The 2022 budget should build on the welcome investment in agricultural climate solutions in 2021, laying the groundwork for ambitious cross-Canada programs that enhance soil health as a key priority in the Next Policy Framework.

The Green Budget Coalition recommends that the federal government:

  • Provide direct support for farmers to adopt soil health practices. An immediate priority is to test-run programs on cover crops, nitrogen management, rotational grazing and land conservation that will be part of the new agricultural framework. Additional support should cover other best management practices such as organic amendments, diverse crop rotations, conservation buffers, prevention of soil compaction and integrated pest management.
  • Develop a pan-Canadian Soil Health Strategy (with appropriate regional emphases) to galvanize action from all relevant parties on soil health. This would include a Canada-wide assessment of the state of our agricultural soils, beginning with a comprehensive inventory of the soil data that currently exists and a gaps analysis, to lay the groundwork for ongoing monitoring and improvement.
  • Develop a pan-Canadian network for information sharing and learning resources that can act as a “one-stop shop” where farmers can find accessible information on soil health best management practices (BMPs).
  • Develop the business case for soil health to determine the economic benefits of BMPs on different production systems, regions, and types of farms as done, for example, in the U.S. by the Soil Health Institute, the American Farmlands Trust and U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Strengthen training opportunities by offering access to education, farmer-to- farmer training and extension services on soil health.

Recommended Investment:

$361 million over three years, and then $100 million ongoing, thereafter, as follows [AAFC]:

  • $50 million to test-run programs for soil health practices not covered in Budget 2021;
  • $6 million to develop Soil Health Strategy ($1 million in 2022-23; $2 million in 2023-24; $3 million in 2024-25);
  • $2 million over two years for a network for information sharing;
  • $3 million over two years for the business case for soil health; and
  • $100 million per year ongoing to pay for 1,000 new extension service agents to support regenerative practices, in particular soil health.

    See also Appendix 1 on Environmentally-Sustainable Agriculture: Transitioning to Environmentally Sustainable Land Management and Food Production in Canada in the Next Policy Framework.

Contact

Marc-André Viau – maviau@equiterre.org