Glacier FarmMedia – Work has begun on a national strategy to position Canadian agriculture as a world leader in sustainability.
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Federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Dec. 12 the launch of online consultations and an advisory committee to develop the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy. This was formerly referred to as the Green Agricultural Plan.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) will co-chair the committee with the federal agriculture department.
Why it matters: Farm groups will have the opportunity to weigh in on a national discussion on agricultural sustainability.
Bibeau said the committee includes producers, industry, stakeholders and experts and just had its first meeting.
“Members will work together to keep everyone connected and on the same page as we work collaboratively towards developing our strategy by the end of next year,” she said.
“This strategy is ambitious and transformative. We want to take the time to get it right. Our first step is getting input from all players across the sector.”
Consultations are open until March 31. Bibeau said technical workshops to “drill down” into the details will also be held.
The strategy will focus on five priority areas: soil health, climate adaptation and resilience, water, climate change mitigation, and biodiversity.
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The minister said producers will be fully involved in the process and be recognized for their work to safeguard the environment.
“It will track our progress as we work together to grow the sustainability of the sector through healthy soils, clean water and more biodiversity,” she said.
Bibeau said it’s also important that Canadian farmers be able to live a good life and earn a good livelihood while increasing environmental sustainability.
CFA president Mary Robinson said Canadian farmers today are faced with the challenge of growing more food while reducing environmental impacts. Substantial gains have already been made, she said, because farmers produce more overall with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, less water and energy.
“Farmers are highly invested in this,” she said.
“Soil is our most precious commodity. It is the foundation for all we do and we’re certainly not interested in spending any more money on inputs.”
Agriculture’s potential to be a net carbon sink positions it well in the climate change fight, she added.
Robinson said the committee includes industry organizations, environmental organizations and government departments that will examine “farm driven solutions that are scalable, environmentally beneficial, and ideally enhance the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture as global demands for agri-food products continue to grow.”
Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to environment minister Steven Guilbeault, said an agricultural environmental strategy is critical to the government’s efforts to reduce emissions.
“We know farmers are already strong partners. After all, they have the greatest stake in the fight against climate change,” he said.
Bibeau said she wouldn’t pre-judge what the specific outcomes attached to each of the priority sectors might be. Asked if regulations or legislation would be required to support the strategy, she said the spirit right now is to work collaboratively.
She and Robinson were also asked about food affordability in the context of sustainability. Robinson said the farmers’ role in the cost of food is small.
She added she likes the term sustainable intensity, which might confuse people who aren’t working in agriculture.
“I think of it in layman’s terms. When I go to buy a new vehicle, I’m looking for something that gives me the most miles per gallon, or kilometres per 100 litres, and what we’re talking about with agriculture is figuring out how to keep our footprint as small as possible but to produce the most,” she said.
“We’ve got to have that conversation.”
Twenty organizations are members of the advisory committee, including national farm associations, and others such as Fertilizer Canada and Ducks Unlimited.
– This article was originally published at The Western Producer.