(Ottawa) As Justin Trudeau prepares his Speech from the Throne and his ‘daring’ reconstruction plan, farmers are insisting that this boldness be tinged with green.
Posted September 6, 2020 at 12:15 PM
The Canadian Press
“What we really want is for governments to help farmers deal with climate change more,” says Claude Lefebvre.
Mr. Lefebvre is one of 20,000 growers and farmers who are members of the Farmers for the Climate Transition group. His company has 200 dairy cows and 300 hectares of cultivation.
Dare, Mr. Lefebvre had been in Baie-du-Febvre for the past 30 years. He tried to sow without tilling the soil. “I did things where I broke my mouth a little bit,” he says.
“We had revenue cuts. But through persistence, let’s say we’ve improved our ways and we’re doing well, ”he says, explaining that the process, without tractor plowing, has enabled him to reduce his carbon footprint and brought the earthworms to are fields.
“When we put earthworms in the ground, we don’t just bring earthworms. We’re bringing incredible wildlife that will help release nutrients for the crop, ”he explains with such enthusiasm that we can almost see his eyes on the other side of the phone.
He is just as enthusiastic about his “ground covers”. “It is an advantage for production, it is also an advantage for the soil and it captures CO2”, he says.
He wants permanent “support” from the federal government. “The subsidies are often intended for the adoption of new practices and that disappears after three or four years. So that’s where the producers give up, ”he criticizes.
His group has prepared a report and recommendations. One of these is the need to “encourage the generation of renewable energy sources, the replacement of fuels and the redevelopment of buildings on farms”.
But only 4% of farms in Canada have “adopted some form of renewable energy production,” the report said.
At the University of Laval, Professor Sébastien Fournel counts farm buildings in his field.
He notes that efforts are currently being made to revamp these buildings, but that it serves a different purpose: animal welfare.
Consumers are making new demands that put pressure on agribusiness companies, which in turn are imposing new standards on breeders, Fournel said.
“So they (the farmers) are already more in upgrade mode to meet the latest animal welfare standards or requirements, to meet the demands of the market,” he explains.
And then, according to him, there is a lack of financial motivation to invest in renewable energy installations.
“The energy bill may not be the biggest expense on livestock farms. So this may not be the first thing producers go to, ”he explains, estimating this bill at 6% of a breeder’s cost.
“There are several technologies that reduce greenhouse gases, but if the producer pays for that, he has nothing in his pocket. To reduce its greenhouse gases, its cows will not produce more milk, its chickens will not produce more eggs … The question to ask: Is it up to society to pay for it? this reduction? », Notes Professor Fournel.
What is the federal government preparing?
In her public announcements, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, speaks of a “green economic recovery plan” to ensure “a sustainable and prosperous agricultural and agri-food sector”.
We are not yet at concrete proposals.
‘We’re thinking about it. We are twisting it all and thanks to COVID we have been able to identify more clearly where the strengths and weaknesses of the food and agri-food sector and our supply chains lay, ”said Minister Bibeau in a telephone interview.
She mentions federal support for agricultural research, but admits that support for innovation on farms leaves something to be desired in practice.
“Right now we’ve been helping a lot in the field of innovation, at the level of the first to move forward with new techniques, but we need to make it more accessible in a wider way than we can share good practices,” she says.
Farmers for the Climate Transition were able to present their vision to the minister and said they were “encouraged” by her “openness”.
Among their recommendations: “Adapt risk management programs to encourage the application of risk mitigation practices”, the risk associated with climate change.
And there the minister seems willing to follow them, but slowly.
Risk management programs, funded 60% by the federal government and 40% by each province, are run on five-year cycles.
“We’re starting to discuss the next (cycle) starting in 2022, but we’re already discussing it and that’s part of the discussion; […] how we can link certain financial support to the commitment of producers to better manage their risk, to a certain extent, and their impact on the environment ”, confides the minister.
And even if no decision is made, there is already talk of linking the AgriInvest program, for example, to efforts to protect the environment.
Claude Lefebvre, he is impatient. “We often say ‘it’s one to midnight’, but now it’s a quarter past twelve,” he complains.
He sowed this spring in extremely dry conditions. “I had never seen this in my life since I started farming,” he says.
“The government has set targets for reducing greenhouse gases and so on, but it doesn’t necessarily have a vision of how to do it. We offer an opportunity from an agricultural point of view, ”he emphasizes.
“There is a great opportunity there”, he concludes.