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Hand in Hand Partnership of Climate Sense and Economic Cents (PCN Spring 2016) MAR 29 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

So what is all this climate change mumbo jumbo about, and why should I believe some computer models that say it’s getting hotter? Carbon dioxide levels ebb and flow like the ocean tides and the political parties that occupy the Legislature and Parliament. Why do anything? And why all the articles in Pulse Crop News about climate change anyway?

The debate over human impact on the changing climate will continue, however, the efficient utilization of non-renewable resources is in everyone’s best interest. Not only can ways be found to minimize the impact of the ag sector on the environment by reducing overlap, measuring, mapping and utilizing fertilizer and crop inputs efficiently, producers also save money. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned.

In support of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, Alberta Pulse Growers, in partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, is conducting an Environmental Footprint for the Alberta field pea using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. LCA is a formalized methodology that provides a quantitative approach to understanding the distribution of resource demands and environmental impacts along the food product supply chains, as well as identifying opportunities for improvement.

APG also recognizes that a benchmark of where it stands in regard to emission intensity will be beneficial moving forward. Identifying ways to more efficiently deploy resources, reduce costs, and decrease the industry’s environmental footprint and emission intensity is the goal behind this initiative. Knowing what is driving environmental impacts can help in making production and management decisions that provide the greatest financial and environmental benefits.

APG continues to work with provincial cropping sector counterparts on issues relating to climate change, sustainability and extension of new technologies, improved cropping practices and other technologies that save money and make climate sense. This cropping sector collective follows recent climate change commitments from both the federal and provincial governments in order to understand the potential implications on its members.

The Alberta cropping sector has been vocal on climate change issues and active in communicating concerns to elected officials about potential future environmental policies that may increase costs at the farm gate. Carbon taxes – whether they are applied on fuels, fertilizers or inputs we use – directly or indirectly, are eventually borne entirely by producers. Manufacturers of farm inputs simply pass the costs on. Farmers are unable to pass their costs onto their customers or line companies and, as such, are ultimately price takers. This is not acceptable.

Any policies related to increasing the price of emissions to incite practice change may work for consumers and have them reassess their choice in setting the heat at 23 degrees, buying the larger model vehicle that is a gas guzzler or perhaps having some insulation blown into their attic and potentially saving a buck in the long term. Agriculture relies on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources to produce food, and any policy that increases costs of doing business in Alberta places us at a competitive disadvantage to other exporting regions of the world.

APG is making sure that these concerns are heard by elected officials, again, in partnership and unison with the other crop commissions.

While the cropping sector cannot accept any absolute emission reductions (ie. a farm using less diesel or fertilizer or commit to using aging equipment in perpetuity while at the same time increasing yields), the pulse industry can look at ways to more efficiently deploy non-renewable resources. This is the cornerstone of an LCA; benchmarking current practice in order to isolate production ‘hot spots’ or areas of improvement, so that practices can be adopted to reduce environmental impact while saving money. The saving money part is key while the environmental benefit is an added plus.

If you haven’t already participated in the Life Cycle Assessment, go to APG’s website and take 30 minutes to fill out the survey. APG would greatly appreciate it, and your pocket book may someday also benefit from the collective exercise.

Please do not hesitate to contact Nevin Rosaasen, APG Policy and Program Specialist, with any questions or concerns regarding climate change policies or the Life Cycle Assessment of the Alberta Field Pea.