Across the country, extreme summer weather – including severe droughts, hailstorms and rainfall – has combined with the coronavirus pandemic to take a serious toll on Canada’s agriculture, leaving many of Canada’s 270,000 farmers in crisis. The good news: solutions exist to make Canada’s food supply more resilient to both challenges. That’s the message of the farmer-led coalition Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS) in unveiling a call to action it says will help the Canadian agricultural sector weather short-term challenges posed by the pandemic and long-term challenges caused by accelerating climate change.
The group’s plan, entitled A Better Future Starts on the Farm: Recommendations for recovery from COVID-19 in Canadian agriculture, details five actions to protect Canada’s food supply.
“The pandemic has shed light on the need for a more resilient Canadian food supply in a sector that was already struggling with impacts of climate change. This growing season has been very difficult, and without a good plan, it could get worse,” said Arzeena Hamir, owner at Amara Farm. “Farmers are ready to take action to build a more resilient agricultural sector, but we can’t do this alone – we need decision-makers to act on our recommendations.”
The group’s five recommendations for recovery in agriculture will help farmers protect and improve their livelihoods, increase resilience to climate change, lower emissions, and create green job opportunities in rural communities. They call for the following:
- Make farms green energy powerhouses– With the right incentives, farms can generate solar, wind and biogas energy from manure and crop waste. This increases and diversifies farmers’ revenue, supports the green economy, and creates net environmental benefits.
- Help innovative farmers as mentors– Thousands of farmers across Canada are finding solutions to reduce their emissions and store more carbon in their soil, but they are limited in their capacity to share their experience across the sector. Supporting mentorship and farmer-to-farmer training programs is essential to help low-GHG climate-friendly practices spread.
- Provide incentives for climate-friendly farming– When farmers reduce their emissions, increase biodiversity and improve the health of their local environment, all Canadians benefit. Strong incentives must be created for farming practices that protect our climate and environment.
- Reward farmers who reduce their climate risk– The Canadian government already spends billions of dollars on crop insurance and risk reduction programs for farmers. Rather than only compensate farmers in the case of loss, these programs could also reward them for taking concrete steps to make their farms more resilient to climate change and reducing emissions.
- Support new and young farmers– The average age of Canadian farmers is 55, and COVID-19 exposed the vulnerabilities of a food system that depends largely on temporary foreign workers. Alongside increasing protections for these workers, Canada must remove barriers for young people to enter the profession. This is essential to ensure our future food supply, and is also a way of fostering innovation, as young farmers are some of the most progressive in the field, farming in a way that benefits the climate and environment.