Cutting fertilizer use could cost farmers billions of dollars

Cutting fertilizer use could cost farmers billions of dollars
Sep 30, 2021

A new report shows Canadian farmers could lose about $48 billion in farm income over eight years

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Reducing fertilizer use by about 30 per cent by the year 2030 could cost Canadian farmers about $48 billion in farm income between 2023 and 2030.

That’s one of the messages Fertilizer Canada, the organization representing fertilizer manufacturers, is hoping the federal government takes away from a new report.

Fertilizer Canada commissioned MNP earlier in the year to analyze any potential effects of the federal government’s plans to reduce fertilizer usage by 30 per cent.

“When the government came out with its plans, they didn’t do any consultations,” Karen Proud, president and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, told “And from what we can tell, the targets weren’t assessed for practicality, feasibility and the economic growth of our agricultural sector.”

Fertilizer Canada’s request for a report came after the federal government put out its plan for a healthy environment and healthy economy in 2020. It includes reducing fertilizer use by 30 per cent from the 2020 levels.

“We asked (MNP) to look at the European model,” Proud said.

The European Union is proposing reducing fertilizer use by 20 per cent by 2030.

The MNP study for Fertilizer Canada focused on three crops – corn, canola and spring wheat.

The research discovered that a reduction in fertilizer usage “results in increased differences of actual yields versus potential yields if the status quo had been continued,” the study says.

The yield gaps would be about 23.6 bushels per acre per year for canola, 67.9 bushels per acre per year for corn and 36.1 bushels per acre annually for spring wheat.

The study also notes the reduction in fertilizer use could make it difficult for Canada to fill domestic processing and export capacity.

In addition, “assuming that domestic capacity will be filled first, it is estimated that by 2030 most of Canadian exports of canola will not exist.”

The total value of lost production starts at an estimated $1.80 billion in 2023 and increases each year to $10.40 billion in losses in 2030.

The report highlights the need for industry and government to work together to find suitable ways of reducing emissions while not hurting the ag sector, Proud said.

“Our call is to be able to sit down with government and talk about a practical approach,” she said. “We are 100 per cent behind initiatives aimed at addressing climate change. But we need to do it in a way that we have a growing and thriving ag sector we can be proud of in Canada.”

One way of meeting climate and industry goals is through 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

Canadian farmers have been practicing 4R Nutrient Stewardship for more than a decade.

And a 2018 literature review found this approach can reduce emissions by up to 35 per cent.

The Canadian government needs to recognize the 4R method as the standard in nutrient management, Proud said.

“We’ve believe very strongly it’s a program the federal government needs to recognize and promote,” she said. “This is a key piece to helping manage emissions.” has contacted members of the Canadian ag community for comment on the report’s findings.

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