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'No consultation': Sask. producers caught off guard by federal government's emissions targets

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This year has been tough on farmers, both from cost and environmental perspectives.

That's why the federal government's new target - to reduce fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent over the next eight years - is concerning for some.

Ian Boxall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), said farmers understand environmental issues more than most.

“Producers care more about the environment than we ever get credit for, which is frustrating because we are the first ones that see any type of change, it effects our bottom line every day,” he said.

The frustration continues into governmental targets, something the province said they were not privy to before the announcement.

“I mean, this was obviously a decision made by the federal government with no consultation with the provinces or the producers,” said Minister of Agriculture for Saskatchewan, David Marit. “They just mandated this 30 per cent reduction of fertilizer emissions by the year 2030.”

The federal government however, said that they have been consulting with both farmers and provinces.

“Farmers are committed to making their production increasingly sustainable as they are the first to feel the effects of climate change. In recent years, they have managed to double their production while keeping GHG emissions at the same level,” Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a statement to CTV.

"Fertilizers are an essential input for Canada's agricultural crops. The approach for achieving this target is currently in development and will continue to evolve as industry feedback is received through consultations."

“Recognizing that farmers are key players in reducing greenhouse emissions, our government is making investments to help them further adopt clean technologies and sustainable agricultural practices such as 4Rs. Reaching this target is part of the government's broader plan to reduce Canada's total GHG emissions by 40-45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030,” the statement read.

Marit and Boxall both agree that while the farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan have no problem complying with the mandates, they just need some direction.

“Where are the savings? Because I do not believe with the way we are fertilizing in Saskatchewan, which 80 per cent of if is probably put in the ground at the time of seeding we don’t have huge emissions,” Boxall explained.

“If there are things we can do better, you bet our farmers and ranchers will adapt, we have been, if you look over the last 40 years of how the prairie farmers have adapted to change from both an environmental perspective and also on production,” Marit added.

While the need to cut greenhouse emissions is top of mind for Saskatchewan farmers, producers say there is also a greater need for production in the world at this time.

“Right now with the geo-political issues we’re seeing around the world, the demands for food security, at no point can policy jeopardize the production of food,” said Boxall.

In Saskatchewan, most nitrogen fertilizer goes into the ground, and the minister says with the provinces’ goals, this could be a disruption.

“Our growth plan says that we’re going to hit 45 million metric tones by 2030. This has a real negative connotation to it that could jeopardize and impact that.”

Either way, Marit insists that the province will work with and for farmers, no matter what.

“The government of Saskatchewan is going to stand behind and stand up for the farmers and ranchers in Saskatchewan.”

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