Feb. 23 is Canadian Agriculture Day and John Kolk is a proud southern Alberta farmer.
“I just love it. It’s everything from a baby calf, watching it get up, to planting and then watching that first little plant come up.”
He has been involved in agriculture all of his life. It’s an industry he wants to see continue to flourish.
“We are producing food, we’re producing it as sustainably as we can, let’s be even better at it.”
Kolk is part of a national farmer-led coalition called Farmers for Climate Solutions. It’s a cause Kolk feels is imperative for the industry his family relies on.
“It takes a conscious effort and investment to move down that road,” said Kolk.
“Some of the farmers are doing naturally. Our carbon impact for a bushel of wheat is definitely lower than it was 25 or 30 years ago, but we’ve got more to go.”
But Kolk said making those changes isn’t cheap. The coalition is asking the federal government for a $300-million investment to reduce agricultural emissions by 10 million tonnes.
“Other Canadian sectors are being well-supported to reduce emissions and reskill the labour force, but farmers are being left behind,” said Arzeena Hamir, the co-chair of the Farmers for Climate Solutions Task Force.
Kolk said the agriculture industry is filled with innovators who want to see the sector come in line with Canada’s climate change goals.
“In many ways we have a good story, but we could have a better story.
“For the federal government and provincial governments to kind of understand we can be a part of that solution, and a significant part,” added Kolk.
The coalition has six key programs it wants to launch designed to decrease emissions.
Doing more with less nitrogen by having agronomists and farmers work together to improve nitrogen management through a cost-share program.
Increasing adoption of cover cropping by supporting farmers to plant cover crops through a per-acre payment program.
Normalizing rotational grazing by supporting ranchers to implement rotational grazing through a cost-share program for planning and infrastructure.
Protecting wetlands and trees on working farms through a reverse auction pilot program to conserve existing forests and wetlands.
Powering farms with clean energy by transitioning on-farm energy beyond diesel through pilot programs.
Celebrating climate champions by shining a light on farmers who implement climate-friendly practices through an awards program and awareness campaigns.
These are programs Kolk feels are crucial for generations to come, but can’t happen without some financial assistance from Ottawa.