Climate Change is a global challenge and impacts Ontario farmers. OFA has been working with the provincial government to recognize Climate Change’s current and pending impact on Ontario farm businesses, the importance of adaptation within the agricultural sector to the impacts of Climate Change and to provide research and investment to help farmers adapt.
As legislations are introduced to address Climate Change, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a carbon offset credit system, OFA is calling on the Ontario government to consider ways to reduce the financial burden to Ontario farmers that will result from new rules like a legislated price on greenhouse gas emissions. OFA recognizes the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but a legislated increase to the cost of agriculture and food production to a price-taking, high risk industry is ill-advised.
OFA is committed to working with the government and industry to ensure a new carbon offset credit system recognizes agriculture’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and includes a flexible, realistic and simple path to agricultural offset credits from farmers.
OFA acknowledges that Climate Change is happening as global temperatures rise, and is evidenced by more frequent extreme weather events and patterns. We recognize this as a global challenge requiring action and investment from governments, communities, businesses, and individuals.
OFA believes that policies, programs, and research initiatives must be developed with government and society to reduce the causes (mitigation) and to enable farmers to cope with the effects (adaptation) of climate change. Furthermore, we believe that no provincial or federal climate change policies should have the effect of negatively impacting the ability of farmers in Ontario to compete in domestic or international markets.
Carbon tax policies attempt to recognise the external costs of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on our environment and in theory are intended to provide an economic incentive to emitters to change practices and lower emissions rather than pay an increased cost for their emissions. However, energy use in agriculture is often highly price inelastic – a legislated increase to the price of fuels because of a carbon tax will have a relatively small effect on the quantity of the fuels demanded for food production.
There are currently no replacements for fossil fuels in agricultural production, and major efficiencies in fuel use have already been achieved. Furthermore, the majority of agricultural products are marketed in a global marketplace where farmers have little or no ability to pass the cost of a carbon tax on to the consumer. Ultimately, this makes the application of a carbon tax in the agricultural sector an ineffective instrument to drive emissions reductions.
OFA believes that a carbon tax is not appropriate or effective in the agricultural sector, and that all on-farm fuels used in agricultural production (including but not limited to gas, diesel, natural gas, and propane) should be exempt from a carbon tax policies. We believe that in a highly competitive marketplace, where margins are very tight, a carbon tax represents a legislated increase in the cost of production that hurts competitiveness and ultimately threatens our ability to provide the local food products Ontarians want.
We believe a more effective approach would be to focus on promoting further emissions reductions through incentivising the adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs), investing in the adaptation of precision agricultural technologies at multiple farm scales, and developing programs that recognise the environmental goods and services (EG&S) provided by farming activities.
Agricultural adaptation to the impacts of climate change is vital to maintain provincial and national food security, to support rural livelihoods, and grow a strong economy. Farmers need tools to apply on their own farm operations to reduce the effects of rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. OFA urges government to make significant investments to develop the tools, strategies, and research needed to ensure the Ontario agricultural can adapt to a changing climate.
We know the effects of climate change will be highly variable, impacting farmers differently across commodities and locations. Variable planting and harvesting conditions each year make for highly unpredictable farming schedules and yields. OFA believes that both the provincial and federal governments should considerably increase investment in climate change research, with a focus on short-term and long-term agricultural adaptation strategies that will strengthen the resilience of food production in the face of increased climate variability.
Increased agricultural resilience can be achieved through developing substantially improved weather forecasting and warning systems; research and development of improved plant and animal breeding programs; having an effective and dynamic process to respond to emerging threats from new pest and invasive species; the investment in energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure; and the enhancement of agricultural insurance programs that address new risks associated with climate change.
OFA believes farmers are part of the solution to climate change. As effective managers of the carbon and nitrogen cycles, farmers are in a unique position to provide further greenhouse gas mitigation opportunities. Continued research is needed to both develop and expand the scope of these opportunities and develop acceptable programs that will incentivise adoption.
OFA believes that farming makes the best use of arable land in Ontario, and that agriculturally managed landscapes provide EG&S while producing food, fibre, and fuel. The EG&S farmers provide represent a significant opportunity for voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions if properly incentivised. OFA supports the creation of incentive-based programs to drive emissions reductions in our sector rather than through regulations. Cost-shared funding programs, carbon offset credit programs, and performance-based incentive programs have all proven effective at reducing greenhouse gases, and often result in added environmental co-benefits.
While the agriculture sector has already taken great efforts to create efficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there remains great untapped potential. Ontario’s farmers have a valuable opportunity to contribute to the growing bio-economy that seeks to replace fossil fuel-based products with those derived from renewable plant-based sources. In order to reach provincial emission reduction goals, OFA believes governments need to provide significant long-term support to the bio-economy to develop markets and drive further innovation.