The National Farmers Union has just released Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis: A Transformative Strategy for Canadian Farmers and Food Systems. The report examines in depth the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Canada, as well as the opportunities that agriculture provides to become part of the solution. The report presents a balanced analysis that considers both the impacts of the climate crisis on agriculture and the realities of the vulnerable financial situation of farm families.
Key conclusions include:
- The climate crisis is a threat to Canadian farms, but also an opportunity to re-orient our farms to become more integrated, life-sustaining and community-sustaining.
- The farm crisis and the climate crisis share many of the same causes, and many of the same solutions.
- The climate crisis will increasingly impact the ability of Canadian farms to produce food. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
- Priority must be placed on incentivizing low-input, low-emission agricultural approaches.
In Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis: A Transformative Strategy for Canadian Farmers and Food Systems, the NFU makes the case that we must immediately embark on a pursuit of sustainable practices to make farms and the food system more resilient to climate change that is already locked in, while reducing our GHG emissions to mitigate further climate change. The report argues that a climate-friendly food system can be designed to increase farm income.
Using, and paying for ever-larger quantities of fertilizers, fuels, chemicals, plastics, and other inputs have increased emissions and at the same time lowered farmers’ net incomes. Between 1985 and 2018, input costs consumed more than 95% of farm revenue and left farmers with just 5%. The amount farmers pay annually in interest to banks and other lenders roughly equals the amount paid to farmers via farm-support programs each year. In effect, taxpayers are covering farmers’ interest bills, transferring tens of billions of dollars to banks and other lenders. Thus, the report argues that a low-emission food system will necessarily be a low-input food system that increases farm profitability.
According to Katie Ward, President of the National Farmers Union: “Both the climate crisis and the farm crisis are so complex that no single report can provide all the answers. This report, however, does have many answers — some of which could be implemented right away. Others provide a starting point to opening up the climate conversation in the agricultural sector. Options that will work for different geographic locations, soil types, or types of farms will be explored, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The NFU’s proposal is that we must increase soil carbon levels and embark on an emission-reduction strategies simultaneously.”