Fertilizer emission reductions, crime high on agenda at SARM convention

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities is holding their mid-term convention in Saskatoon Wednesday and Thursday. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC News - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities is holding their mid-term convention in Saskatoon Wednesday and Thursday. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC News - image credit)

Fertilizer policy was a hot topic as the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) midterm convention began Wednesday at TCU Place in Saskatoon.

One of the resolutions up for debate calls for SARM to lobby the federal government to reconsider its policy targeting fertilizer emissions. The policy calls for a 30 per cent reduction in fertilizer-based emissions, based on 2020 levels, by 2030.

The resolution says fertilizer is essential for crop production and the farm sector is being singled out for emission reductions. It also says the emissions reduction target will increase food costs and contribute to shortages.

SARM president Ray Orb said that while the federal policy is voluntary right now, it may not be in the future.

"We did meet with the federal ag minister and relayed our concern," Orb said.

He said farmers in other countries like New Zealand are up in arms over cutting back on fertilizer application.

"We're concerned about it becoming a mandatory issue [here]," said Orb. "If there is an election and it is a minority government that is controlled by a party that is really concerned about this environmentally, I think we would be outnumbered."

Orb said the 30 per cent reduction target is arbitrary.

"Our federal government is telling us on one hand we need to produce more, but we have this emissions problem," he said.

"Farmers right now are reducing greenhouse gas and they are storing it in the soil …. but there is no carbon offset program federally in place for farmers, so they are not being recognized for what they are doing."

Trevor Bothorel/CBC News
Trevor Bothorel/CBC News

Corman Park Coun. Wendy Trask said the convention gives rural politicians a chance to meet, and find out what is happening around the province and what issues need to be addressed.

"We know what's happening in our RM wrapped around Saskatoon, but it's good to network with other councillors and reeves across the province."

Thad Trefiak, Reeve of the RM of Kelross, said rural crime and the cost of production are concerns for him.

On Thursday morning, the convention will have a rural crime panel that will feature the provincial RCMP's assistant commissioner and the head of the Rural Crime Watch Association.

Orb said an extended harvest in the fall was good for farmers, but it was also an opportunity for thieves.

"There were a lot of thefts," Orb said. "Farmers had a lot of equipment stolen, trucks in particular. Fuel in the tanks that farmers have on their trucks or in their yards [was] being stolen, because it is very expensive, and so these are things that criminals focus on."

Earlier this month the province announced plans for a new 70-officer marshals service to be fully operational by 2026 at a cost of $20 million annually.

Orb said more officers in rural Saskatchewan is always welcome.

"We would be in favour of it to see how it works out to complement the RCMP, but not to replace the RCMP," Orb said. "We are in favour of the RCMP right now being our service provider and we want to keep them."

Other issues up for debate at the convention include ways to fix the chronic shortages in rural health care and school bus drivers.

There are resolutions calling for the creation of more education spaces for paramedics and LPNs, and better pay for bus drivers.

The convention wraps up Thursday afternoon.