SSCA asking farmers to provide input on federal government's proposed greenhouse gas offset credit system

·4 min read

The Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) is calling for farmers to review the Government of Canada’s proposed Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System regulations and provide their feedback.

The proposed regulations are currently open for comments and will remain open until May 5, 2021, for a total of 60 days.

Jocelyn Velestuk, an SSCA director, says there are points the group wants farmers to think about as they provide their feedback.

“Some of the things that the SSCA has been pushing for, and we’ve been quite solid on our position, is that we need to separate biological carbon sinks from industrial point source emissions in order to have carbon offset markets. But that encompasses agricultural soils as a carbon sink.

“The other thing we would need to include is no-till continuous cropping, which greatly increases the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil. There are also issues with words like ‘additionality’ and like ‘businesses as usual’, there’s a 40% penetration rate for practices before they’re considered ‘business as usual’ and basically taken off the system completely.

“The third point we would be pushing for is that we need transparency in the carbon offset market, which means that we need to know where the money’s flowing and we need the person who is creating the offset o the farmer to own the carbon credit and be able to even bank that credit if need be.”

She says that the Government of Canada had invited the SSCA to help develop the regulations, which Velestuk notes was an opportunity for the organization to voice concerns on behalf of Saskatchewan producers..

“For the past year we were involved in representing a lot of the farm groups. APAS (The Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan) and SARM (The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities) were represented as well and were invited to participate in a technical working group for industrial carbon sequestration and carbon offsets in agricultural soils. There was also the Ministry of Ag and Ministry of Environment folks that were on that technical working group,” said Velestuk.

“We worked for a year on that technical working group and we were very solid in our position because this is the way we see forward, as a way for farmers to really be involved in the carbon offset system.

“We have research backing us up with this too and SSCA is a long-standing organization that’s always been industry-driven and so when no-till was first getting adopted 30 years ago is when SSCA came to be. In 1995 SSCA initiated the Prairie Soil Carbon Balance project. We’ve been sampling soils on a large scale in Saskatchewan to determine carbon change over time with our practices. So that project was initially introduced with no-till in 1995 and soils were measured four times in the last sampling that happened in 2018.

“So we have data saying that yes, farmers are sequestering more carbon than they’re taking out, so we know that we have a net positive carbon change in our soil with our current practices, which includes our no-tilling continuous cropping.

“We know this happening, we know you’re probably not going to go back to when we started this practice, but if we totally ignore the fact that with our current practices that we’re sequestering carbon, then we’re missing out on huge opportunities. If you want to measure real change and real carbon offset, we can’t just throw away an entire practice. So we’ve really been standing by that in our discussions with the government.”

Velestuk says that the SSCA's main goal is to have zero-till farming acknowledged as a practice by the Government of Canada for the proposed Greenhouse Gas Offset Credit System, noting that a vast majority of Saskatchewan farmers take part in the practice.

“Each year, through no-till practices, Saskatchewan farmers sequester about 9-million new tonnes of carbon dioxide. We are committed to achieving a regulatory environment that recognizes this significant positive impact,” added Velestuk.

Velestuk notes that farmers in Saskatchewan are open to change and will adopt new practices if needed.

“We just want to let the government know that Saskatchewan farmers will not be happy if no-till is not included as a practice. What we’re currently doing, we’re sequestering carbon and we know it’s being measured in the federal inventory.

“So we’re saying we need to measure that offset and we need to give value to the farmgate. If farmers see value in carbon, they’re going to adopt practices to put more carbon in the ground. So it could only be a good thing.

“If carbon is a commodity, then farmers will be able to manage that quite well in an offset system.”

To get involved in the federal consultations producers can visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/pricing-pollution-how-it-will-work/output-based-pricing-system/federal-greenhouse-gas-offset-system.html

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator