Farmers for Climate Solutions is a national coalition of farmer organizations and supporters that believe farm solutions can be climate solutions and Canadian farmers need policy support to help mitigate and adapt to climate change. By telling farmers’ stories and creating dialogue between farmers on practical solutions and policy recommendations, the coalition hopes to make agriculture part of the solution to climate change.
In this podcast episode, podcast host Derek Leahy and Jane Rabinowicz, executive director of SeedChange, one of the lead organizations behind the campaign, talk about the newly launched national coalition of organizations working on policy change and climate-friendly farming in Canada. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture account for about 12% of Canada’s total GHG emissions, but the potential for agriculture to be a climate solution.
By taking a deeper look into the context of farming in Canada today and questioning how we farm, what we farm, and who is farming we can get some insight into the links between the farming crisis and the climate crisis. The intersection between the farming crisis and the climate crisis is where farmers have the greatest potential to create and implement climate solutions for the benefit of their farms, their families and communities and ultimately for the climate.
(2:45) Great quote from Steve Kenyon of Greener Pastures Ranching: “There’s a balance between the environmental side of what I’m doing and the economic side. We have to be able to do both. As I’ve said for years, I can clean the air and the water and do these wonderful things but I can also go broke doing it. There’s a big economic component to what I teach as well and that’s what I think a lot of younger farmers need to keen up on. You have to be able to make a living doing this or else it just won’t last. You’ve got to have the economic component as well.”
(9:05) Farmers for Climate Solutions wants to effect policy change and to achieve climate targets through agriculture. Agricultural producers are amongst the first Canadians to see climate change impacts on their land and bottom lines and they are also on the frontlines of innovation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to implement climate solutions on their farms. It’s time to shift the discourse from blame and shame of producers for contributing to climate change to more productive conversation about agriculture as a climate solution.
(16:30) How is the farming crisis related to the climate crisis? The farming crisis is increasing farm debt, lower farm income, and fewer farmers across Canada. The systems in place that contribute to the farming crisis have direct links to the climate crisis or can compound effects of the climate crisis in the agricultural sector. For example, as farm debt grows, GHG emissions also grow because of increasing use of chemical fertilizers.
(17:14) The campaign is about the farmer experience first. And the farmer experience is about the environment, weather and the climate. It’s about what’s happening on the farm and of course, the farm experience is also about their livelihoods.
(17:34) Would anybody else in any other sector be asked to change their practices for purely environmental reasons if it meant a diminished livelihood?
(21:46) Canadian statistics from the National Farmers Union (NFU) report:
– Producers off-farm jobs contribute more to their overall income than actual farming does.
– Canadian farm debt has doubled since 2000. Nationally it is around $100 billion.
– Number of young farmers (15-35 yrs old) has been decreasing. Dropped ~68% since 1991
– Average age of Canadian farmer is 55.
– Most farms don’t have succession plans.
– Gross farm revenue has never been higher vs Net farm income which has been dropping since the 1960’s
(23:17) The NFU report concludes: “The 40+ year experiment in high-output, high-input, high-cost food production has been a bust for farmers.”
(30:35) Re-imagining agriculture – dealing with the farming and climate crises needs a new approach through a focus on sustainability, reducing inputs and emissions, raising farm incomes, and increasing the number of farms and farmers.
(38:48) Food prices have gone up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean better incomes for farmers.
(43:41) To be effective in achieving environmental outcomes in agriculture, you need to truly care about the wellbeing of farmers and farming communities.
(46:00) The results of the recent federal election in 2019 showed that climate action is important to Canadians. However, no political parties have created a coherent vision for farmers and the role that agriculture can play in mitigating climate change.
(47:38) It would be very nice to see the link between climate and agriculture reflected in political platforms and a clear vision. Canada has expressed very strong ambitions for growth in agriculture and Canada has also expressed very strong ambitions for climate leadership. We have yet to see a vision for how these two things go together.
(48:30) What you can do to assist Farmers for Climate Solutions.
(50:50) System in Italy with the aim of bringing down use of neonicotinoids. Producers would be insured for not using neonics for the potential of crop failure due to pest infestation. The premiums on insurance are less than the cost of the input. If there is a crop failure, there is a payout. Little risk to the producer if they are not using neonicotinoids.
(58:55) You can make a difference for the planet in the food that you eat day to day. You can understand how this farmer is going to make a difference for the planet in how they produce the food you are eating day to day.
Farmers for Climate Solutions
NFU Report: Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis
SeedChange (formerly USC Canada)
Canadian Organic Growers
Farm Folk City Folk
Prairie Climate Centre
Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario
Farmers for Climate Action (Australia)
4 per 1000 Initiative
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (U.S.)
Want to learn more? Listen to What We Do to find out more about Rural Routes and we also recommend How Organics Fight Climate Change with Dr. Tracy Misiewicz of The Organic Center and Adaptive Agriculture featuring Alberta agricultural producers explaining how they will adapt to a changing climate. And don’t forget The Brown Revolution with soil microbiologist Dr. Kristine Nichols!