Improving farming efficiency

By Oneil Carlier, MLA for Whitecourt-Ste. Anne.

Like all sectors of the economy, agriculture has a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a vested interest in reducing the impacts of climate change.

...investing in these programs for farmers offers an excellent opportunity to reduce the impact of the carbon levy on their operations as well as reduce their environmental footprint.

If left unchecked, climate change will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for the length of the growing season, moisture conditions, the prevalence of extreme weather events and the availability of water.

We know Alberta farmers care about the environment and they have been leaders in making sure their operations are efficient. Many producers are already taking steps to not only to reduce their emissions but also to lower their energy bills.

Our government is here to support them.

We are investing $10 million from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund that will enhance already successful programs that encourage producers and agriculture-based businesses to adopt new technologies and practices.

This additional $10 million, means a total of $15.8 million for these programs over the next two years - almost tripling the funding. We are building on the grant programs currently offered through our Growing Forward 2 suite of programs that are in high demand with over 700 applicants a year and consistently oversubscribed.

While Alberta‘s agriculture community has made some progress over the years to enhance environmental stewardship and adopt new innovative practices we know that there is still a lot of work to do.

Every two years, Agriculture and Forestry conducts a survey that tracks the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices by the agriculture sector. While adoption rates were relatively high in areas related to water quality, habitat conservation, and grazing management they were lowest in the adoption of practices related to energy use and climate change at just 16 per cent.

We know that the cost of adopting new technology which can be between $50,000 -$150,000 per operation is one of the factors impeding change.

We also know that specific sectors within the agriculture economy such as greenhouse producers, hog operations, irrigated farms, chicken and egg producers are more intensive users of natural gas and electricity. That is why investing in these programs for farmers offers an excellent opportunity to reduce the impact of the carbon levy on their operations as well as reduce their environmental footprint.

We will continue to work with stakeholders to develop efficiency programs and allow the industry to seize new economic opportunities in a carbon constrained future.

First published in the Whitecourt Star, Nov. 9, 2016