Farmers pitched as climate solution providers

A new organization aims to bring attention to farmers’ role in climate change mitigation

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A coalition of farm groups has launched a new national movement to promote the idea of farmers being a part of creating Canadian climate change solutions.

The group, called, Farmers for Climate Solutions is currently made up of organic and environment-focused groups across the country, but aims to include more larger farm organizations, says Brent Preston, president of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.

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“We hope many farmers will join with us. There’s strength in numbers. We want this to be a mainstream movement,” he said.

Why it matters: Farmers sequester carbon when they grow plants and increase organic matter, but they rarely get credit for it.

Preston says that there’s “a real sense among our members that they individually want to be active in the fight against climate change, and they want their organizations to be active in that fight. Our partners in the coalition are getting the same message from their members.”

The federal government has also set a goal of Canada being carbon neutral by 2050 and Preston says that goal will not be reached without farmers being involved.

“We think there’s a lot of times farmers are seen as passive victims, or the bad guys causing it, causing emissions or damaging to the environment. We really want to change that narrative and be part of solutions,” says Preston, who farms near Creemore.

Increasing soil health by accumulating more organic matter in soils. Growing cover crops to keep soil in place and more efficiently use nutrients. These are practices that Preston said were “pretty fringe” when he started farming 15 years ago, but now are the focus of the mainstream.

The new organization hasn’t yet created policies, as Preston says they want more people involved, before they are created. He says “the idea we value and pay farmers for environmental services is something that absolutely makes sense.

“The benefits (of climate services) don’t just accrue to farmers. Society benefits, so there needs to be societal commitment to make this stuff happen.”

A recent report from the National Farmers Union (NFU) says that the agriculture sector contributes 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, but it also is a major sequesterer of that carbon, and the organization sees farmers as a critical partner in lowering carbon in the atmosphere.

The NFU is one of the founding members of Farmers for Climate Solutions, along with the EFAO, Equiterre, Canadian Organic Growers, SeedChange, Rural Routes to Climate Solutions and Farm Folk City Folk. The organization launched on Feb. 11, Canadian Agriculture Day.

Preston says he sees some of the old animosities that divide production systems breaking down and he hopes farmers across the sector sign onto the movement.

“Organic or not, no-till or traditional tillage methods, all of us can improve. None of us is doing everything perfectly. We can learn from each other and be moving in same direction.”

About the author

Editor

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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