Speech Highlighting Farmers Environmental Innovation

May 30, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Bow River for raising the issue of land conservation and restoration on our farms.

As a member of the Standing Committee for Agriculture, and also having been born and raised on the Prairies, I know that Alberta farmers, and Canadian farmers, are responsible stewards of the land. Their goal is to leave the land in better shape for the next generation. Farmers and ranchers have always been innovators and still lead innovation, as it relates to productivity and sustainability.

Last month, we celebrated Earth Day. On the farm, every day is earth day. Across the country, Canadian farmers are taking action to safeguard their soil, air, and water resources. We know that our farmers are part of the climate change solution. Their sustainable practices have offset part of Canada's emissions by increasing the amount of carbon that is stored in agricultural soils. They continue to make great strides in reducing agriculture's environmental footprint, through higher-yielding crops, more effective use of inputs like fertilizers, and the adoption of technologies that use water efficiently. They use practices like zero tillage that keep carbon in the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Twenty-five years ago, zero tillage was basically unheard of on the Canadian fields. Today, according to Statistics Canada, almost 60% of Canada's farmers leave the plough in the shed. By not disturbing the soil through tillage and leaving plant material on the ground, it reduces soil erosion, maintains moisture, and captures carbon in the soil. Farmers apply nitrogen fertilizers in more efficient ways that safeguard the environment and improve the bottom line. Over the past 20 years, wheat producers have reduced their fuel consumption per tonne of wheat harvested by 40%.

Cattle producers have also reduced their environmental footprint. Over the past three decades, farmers have reduced greenhouse emissions by 15% per kilo, through innovative advancements in genetics and feeding. At the same time, they are increasing their production by over 30%.

These numbers are unreal. If they were in manufacturing, they would be on every headline in every paper in the country.

Canadian dairy farmers can now produce the same quantity of milk as they did 20 years ago, with close to half the number of cows, and produce 20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian agriculture sector has a solid track record in innovation and adoption of new technologies that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Innovations in land management, feeding, breeding, and genetics means that while Canadian agriculture productivity has increased, emissions have remained stabled. Producers are reducing their environmental footprint through new crop varieties and technologies that allow for higher yields on the same land base.

Clearly, Canada's farmers are up to the challenge of harnessing innovation to find affordable and practical solutions to feeding the world sustainably.

When it comes to programs to support environmental action on farms, our government supports Canadian farmers, and will continue to do so. Through our solid investments in innovation and sustainable practices, we are making a real difference in the lives of farmers and farm families across the country. We understand that science and innovation are the keys to drive the sector forward sustainably and, at the same time, grow our exports and create job opportunities in the agriculture sector.

Budget 2017 committed to ongoing support for farmers, through investments in research, innovation, and science infrastructure. The University of Guelph has been a proud recipient of many grants looking into research in these area. That includes an investment of $200 million in support of clean technologies in the natural resources sectors, including agriculture.

We are also proud to be investing $70 million in agricultural science and innovation, through budget 2017, focusing on priority areas like water and soil conservation.

I would like to take a moment to highlight our $27 million investment in the agricultural greenhouse gases program, which will help create technologies, practices and processes to help the sector adjust to climate change and improve soil and water conservation by developing new farming practices and methods.

Environmental farm plans are another tremendous success story in our industry. Supported by federal, provincial, and territorial investments, farmers make individualized plans for environmental improvements on their farms.

Environmental farm planning brings industry, the provinces, the territories, and the federal government together to take concrete action on the environment. They deliver practical solutions that farmers can use to help the environment while boosting their bottom line.

Over the past quarter-century, over 70,000 Canadian farmers have developed environmental farm plans. They have invested untold hours and dollars in environmental improvements, supported by investments from the provinces, territories and the federal government.

Canada is showing global leadership on the environment. We reaffirmed our strong support for international action on the environment a year ago when the Prime Minister signed the Paris climate agreement of COP 21.

Our investments are supporting on-farm action on the environment. Through these investments we are supporting science to help producers reduce their environmental footprint through: higher-producing crops; effective use of inputs like fertilizers; improvements in animal genetics and nutrition; and technologies that use water more efficiently.

We are now looking ahead to the next agricultural policy framework that will replace Growing Forward 2 in 2018, something we have been discussing extensively at agriculture committee.

Governments agree that one of the priorities of the framework will be to help the sector to capitalize on opportunities for sustainable growth while adapting to climate change.

Farmers are faced with the challenge of increasing production to feed a growing population while protecting land and water resources.

Our government is committed to ensuring farmers have the tools and the support they need to grow, to innovate, and to improve on their excellent land conservation and stewardship record.

It is great to see that the member for Bow River and other members of the House are as concentrated on this as the government. I thank the member for Bow River for initiating this discussion and for bringing forward the motion for us to discuss today.