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Systemic change is needed in Canadian agriculture and why it matters to you

Published on 

actu - systemic changes

To ensure our food security in the context of the climate crisis, we need resilient farms that can sustain us all into the future.

But it’s no secret that Canadian agriculture is facing significant challenges. Though production and productivity have improved dramatically over recent decades, herbicide and pesticide resistance is growing, soils are degrading and the unpredictable and extreme weather brought on by the climate crisis threaten to reduce yields. Meanwhile, farm debt is at a record high.

Our farmers and agricultural systems are the building blocks of our society. They work the land, they know that their soil is their future, their capital, and their legacy, and they are on the frontlines of a movement for change.

Solutions: Win-win-win for people, planet and farm resilience

Our new report, The Power of Soil, An agenda for change to benefit farmers and climate resilience, in collaboration with Greenbelt, takes a close look at how and why farmers adopt soil health practices and provides a foundation for rethinking Canada’s agricultural and climate change policies and programs in support of greater soil health. It is a roadmap for change, through which Canada can help farmers adopt healthy soil practices, thus ensuring long term viability and resilience, while at the same time helping Canada meet its global climate change commitments.

We know that maintaining long term productivity for our agricultural sector depends on reversing declines in soil health. Thriving soil ecosystems build productivity, fertility and biodiversity, resulting in less dependency on purchased synthetic inputs, and greater margins. Through shifts in farm practices, it becomes possible to sustain farm incomes, strengthen food security, stabilize water cycles, contribute to human health, and conserve biodiversity. Healthy soil practices also capture carbon to build soil organic matter, and reduce crop agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Have you ever been so impressed by soil?

It’s time to think big

The recommendations in this new report form an integrated package of significant changes to public policy and partnerships that would signal a fundamental shift in direction in agri-environmental policy and programs. Canadian, provincial and territorial governments have an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate forward-looking leadership by placing a real priority on soil health.

Équiterre, Greenbelt and our partners are working hard with policy makers and a wide range of stakeholders and experts to bring this vision into reality.

To do so, we will need to attract many tens of thousands more farmers to adopt soil health systems for their farm businesses. Federal and provincial policies and programs must change significantly to enable the scale of action required by farmers to meet the challenge, and the opportunity. Removing bureaucratic barriers, increasing knowledge, learning opportunities and funding, enhancing public sector capacity for research and extension, building the business case, reducing the risk of innovation, conserving agricultural land and protected areas and understanding farmers’ needs - all are part of the interconnected puzzle.

This will require extensive financial investments, as well as a broader strategic framework which enables innovation in policy, programming and on the farm.

Farmers for Climate Solutions, of which Équiterre is a member, is asking the federal government to invest $300 million in its 2021 budget to help farmers reduce agricultural emissions by 10 megatonnes. Click here to see FCS’ recommendations.

Every citizen has a say in our collective food security

We must all encourage our decision makers to make it easier for our farmers to adopt these soil health practices. With your support, Équiterre will continue to work to ensure that these practices will be central to the Federal Provincial Territorial (FPT) agricultural policy framework, expected in 2023. There is too much at stake to not make the most of this incredible soil-ution beneath our feet.