Creating food security, curbing emissions in local farming

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – The National Farmers Union (NFU) released a new report this month, titled Imagine If…. …

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – The National Farmers Union (NFU) released a new report this month, titled Imagine If…. A Vision of a Near-Zero-Emission Farm and Food System for Canada. It details strategies for tackling climate change and meeting global emission targets, presenting what farming could look like in Canada.

“What follows is neither prediction nor projection, but rather a picture of what could be—one possible future among many,” reads the report, which is a follow up to their 2019 discussion paper, Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis.

Bess Legault of the Northern Co-Hort in Fort St. John says the report aims to support family farms across Canada, including farmers in the Peace region who have strong roots with the NFU.

“NFU is a family farm focused organization that tries to listen to our members and have a voice, so the average farmer is represented when policy decisions are made on the federal level,” said Legault. “We truly believe there is an ton of capacity for climate change solutions to happen on our agricultural landscape.”

Legault says the report highlights a need to focus on soil health to increase biodiversity, produce nutrient dense crops and livestock, and reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

The report also recommends the adoption of electric tractors to meet climate goals, and a return to traditional farming to reduce carbon footprint.

“It’s a vision for the future, but it’s based in real time climate science, and soil carbon capture science,” Legault. “We do have very progressive producers up here.”

Federal legislation aims to curb 30% of all fertilizer use by 2030.

“That’s nine growing seasons from now. Knowing that we have many producers of all scales and modalities in the region, a lot of them are very dependent on synthetic fertilizer inputs for their production,” said Legault. “We just want to have the federal government step up and support them with knowledge transfer and researchers.”

The Peace region is home to the majority of B.C.’s prairie land, says Legault, with the potential to regionally process and store crops, creating food security for northern residents.

Despite the challenges, Legault feels Peace farmers have some distinct advantages, such as regenerative farming, precision agriculture, no-till production, rotational grazing, winter bale grazing, cocktail forages, and cover crop rotations.

“I do strongly believe that these producers need to be supported as they explore finding a carbon balance on their farms because ecology is complex,” said Legault. “We cannot expect our farmers to carry a depth of knowledge in topics that researchers spend decades exploring on top of being skilled agricultural producers specific to their farm or ranch.”

She added that increasing net incomes is also a goal of the report, as family farmers have experienced severe income drops over the last several decades, taking on more land and debt to stay in business.

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