Glacier FarmMedia – Canada requires the national ambition to move agriculture ahead faster and in a climate-smart way, said Royal Bank senior vice-president John Stackhouse.
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Speaking to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual meeting last month, Stackhouse said the country’s agriculture sector is being asked to do more to feed and fuel the world but is inching along at that task rather than leaping.
Last fall, RBC released a report called The Next Green Revolution, which addresses the issues of producing more while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Why it matters: Exports drive much of Canada’s agriculture prosperity as more is produced on farms than can be consumed in the country.
In an interview, he said prioritization is one reason for the slow pace.
“We need to see agriculture as kind of a top three priority for the country for economic reasons, but also for national reasons and frankly for global reasons,” he said.
“Canada’s place in the world in the coming years and even decades is going to depend on our ability to help feed and fuel many parts of the world that don’t have access to food and energy sources the way we do.”
Tensions between Ottawa and the provinces, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan, are also challenges. Stackhouse said political and policy differences within the federation aren’t new, but they are manageable.
“Agriculture, actually, is one of the files that tends to unite federal governments and provinces, or at least it can,” he said. “We wonder if there’s an opportunity here for Ottawa to sit down with especially the significant ag provinces and say, ‘how do we build a bit of a Team Canada here to take on this moon shot ambition of producing more food, 25 per cent more this decade, with fewer emissions’.”
Stackhouse also told the farmers gathered for the meeting that Canada must be “truly export obsessed.”
“We also think we need to take a more climate-minded approach and strategy to our ag exports,” he said. “How do we sell food products to the world and not only for economic or financial gain, but also for a climate benefit? Because often those food products are leading to a net benefit for the world that Canada should gain some sort of credit for through global accounting.”
Markets already use trade barriers for many things they import from Canada, he said. He suggested other countries could use climate-friendly practices as a non-tariff trade barrier, and Canada should be mindful of that risk.
Provinces also should be selling to the world, he said.
“(Required)” indicates required fields
“Saskatchewan, I think, is a bit of a model in this because they know that the world is their market and so they’ve got to get out of bed and get on an airplane or at least be making calls around the world every day of the year,” he said.
Saskatchewan has also launched its Sustainable Saskatchewan billboard campaign to sell how green its products are.
Measurement of that sustainability is often disputed. Stackhouse said RBC is advocating for a national framework for measurement, reporting and verification related to soil carbon capture.
There are many different approaches to this around the world and he said as the science develops, Canada should have a framework outlining the principles and let the market test different ideas until the proper system is developed.
Living with an imperfect measurement system is fine if farmers are able to demonstrate they are capturing carbon, he said.
“There will be a variance there. Is that 10 per cent, is it 20 per cent?” he said. “Let’s develop a range of acceptance but know that in order to get closer to perfection, in order to develop MRV (measurement, recording and verification) models that are more robust, we’re going to try them … with real money being allocated to farmers so that as they develop, enhance and alter their practices to capture more greenhouse gas emissions in their soil, that they are rewarded for that.”
– This article was originally published at The Western Producer.