2020- 2022 Policy Process | Green Party of Canada
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G21-P001 Support Carbon Sequestration on Farms
Ratification Vote Results: Adopted
GPC supports incentive payments for measurable outcomes of soil organic matter (SOM) on fields with increasing or good SOM levels. GPC supports a mandatory measurement of SOM when farmland is sold, and if SOM is then poor, the land will be taxed. Both payments and taxes will be proportional to SOM levels according to a consistent scientific protocol.
The objective is to arrest the trend of declining soil organic matter (SOM) on agricultural land in Canada and to start increasing SOM on agricultural land to improve soil health, while also removing carbon dioxide from air.
Removing carbon dioxide from air advances the shift toward net zero emissions. Increasing SOM improves resilience of food production and is correlated with other indicators of soil health such as decreasing soil erosion and compaction and increasing soil microbial activity, aggregate stability, nutrient retention and water holding capacity.
Supporting Comments from Submitter
The 2016 Canadian Census shows that the total agricultural area in Canada was 158.7 million acres and the total area dedicated to cropland was 93.4 million acres (1). There is high potential to remove carbon from the air and then to sequester carbon on this large land area.
As an example of soil conditions across Canada, SOM levels are now decreasing on 82 percent of Ontario farmland and 54 percent of Ontario farmland currently has an erosion risk that is too high (2). Increasing SOM improves resilience of food production and sustainable agriculture and is correlated with other indicators of soil health such as decreasing soil erosion and compaction and increasing soil microbial activity, aggregate stability, nutrient retention and water holding capacity (3).
The international initiative "4 per 1000", was launched by France, December 2015 at COP 21. An annual growth rate of 0.4% in the soil carbon stocks, or 4% per year, in the first 30-40 cm of soil, would significantly reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere (4).
Soil texture affects the potential for a "good" rating of SOM level; e.g. sandy soils are good at 2.5% SOM and clay loam and clay soils are good at 4.5% SOM. Soil texture cannot be changed by farmers but SOM levels can be changed and to reward these efforts fairly, it is important to adjust ratings and payments to the inherent soil texture in each field (2). The rating categories of SOM levels are very good, good, fair and poor (2).
This proposal includes voluntary participation, albeit with a consistent scientific protocol, and direct payments proportional to SOM levels, if applicable. The only time such assessment would be mandatory is when the land is sold. The rationale is that maintaining or improving SOM levels contribute to the public good and if SOM levels are allowed to decline to poor levels the public good of agricultural resilience will be compromised. In addition, there will be increased carbon dioxide emissions as SOM levels decline.
Given that SOM levels change slowly and variability should be captured on field and sub-field scales (2), this proposal includes a recommendation to sample every field, every 5 years according to a scientific protocol. A farmer concerned about low SOM levels prior to selling land, could sample 5 years prior to selling and would have an incentive to increase SOM levels before the land is sold.
1. Census of Agriculture. 2016.
2) Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). 2018. "New Horizons: Ontario's Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy." Last modified May 14, 2018. omafra.gov.on.ca/english/landuse/soil-strategy.htm
3) Gaudin, A.C.M., Westra, S., Loucks, C.E.S., Janovicek, K. Martin, R.C. and Deen, W. 2013. Improving Resilience of Northern Field Crop Systems Using Inter-Seeded Red Clover: A Review. Agronomy (Open Access) 3: 148-180; doi:10.3390/agronomy3010148
4) The "4 per 1000" Initiative. 2020.
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