Evidence of meeting #38 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was soil.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Alexie Labelle
Bryan Gilvesy  Chief Executive Officer, ALUS
Wade Barnes  Chief Executive Officer, Farmers Edge Inc.
Fawn Jackson  Director, Policy and International Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Duane Thompson  Chair, Environment Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Aldyen Donnelly  Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

5:20 p.m.

Director, Policy and International Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Fawn Jackson

I would like to reiterate that having those be outcome-based and letting the producers figure out what the solution is, that is really important. Enabling them to do that is key.

I'll continue on the forestry example. If you want to do fencing in British Columbia, it's somewhere upwards of $20,000 per kilometre. We need to do the virtual fencing, then, to be able to...so we need investments there to drive that innovation, to enable the practices that help us all.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Absolutely. I was very interested in that. That's the first time I've heard of the virtual fencing solution, but, no, our province is not the easiest one to get around in. It looks like a carpet that's been bunched up. We'll just keep on running into a mountain range.

Thank you for that answer, Ms. Jackson.

Maybe I'll turn to Ms. Donnelly. Your website refers to the 78 gigatonnes of CO2 that can be pulled out of the atmosphere and sequestered in our soil carbon. I've been wondering. I guess that's an annual figure you're referring to, the potential we have every year.

5:20 p.m.

Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

Aldyen Donnelly

Yes, it takes a while to build up to that. The current estimate of the science community in a publication that was just released last Friday says we could get up to 78 million tonnes per year by 2030, and it will take the next nine years to build up to that, with a lower than 78 million tonne average.

The thing that's really interesting is that the theoretical capacity for us to store incremental carbon in our soils is about equal to what our current estimates of the soil organic carbon stocks are. In theory, you can't build up soil carbon stocks faster than nature is willing to, but that capacity to sequester an incremental 70 million to 80 million tonnes per year persists for hundreds of years.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Yes, I've been wondering about that. When I've previously spoken to Agriculture and Agri-Food scientists, they have made mention that it would be nice to get updated soil maps for Canada.

5:20 p.m.

Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

I can see you nod your head on that, so perhaps you'd like to add to that. Also, I know that Canada's soils are very diverse, but is there an idea of what the maximum storage capacity of soil is, where it's just not possible to store any more? I know it's a process. The soil takes some in, but it also gives some away as you're growing plants.

5:20 p.m.

Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

Aldyen Donnelly

I can't answer that clearly. There's a theoretical maximum, which is.... I'm not going to do the arithmetic right in my head. It's the CO2 equivalent of 80 billion tonnes.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Okay, on the updated soil maps, would you like to speak about that? Could you lend us words as to what you would like to maybe see in a recommendation?

5:20 p.m.

Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

Aldyen Donnelly

There are lots of good reasons that have nothing to do with carbon for updating the soil maps, and I'll leave those aside right now. I'm just going to go really sort of lazy on you, as someone who is trying to build a market. In real life and nature we know that there is a maximum theoretical annual increase possible, and in soil carbon stocks that's about 1% per year of the background stock. If I'm trying to build a market and figure out how to monetize all the information I have, if I have a good soil map in the background, I can introduce the test well. If my calculation says it's more than 1% per year, it's probably wrong.

If I'm working in a marketplace where I have good background soil mapping, I can bring financing in because I have a sort of insurance number in the background. If I haven't seen that soil map updated since 1991, I don't have the 1% QA/QC rule that I can stick into my financing story.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

You have to know where you are if you want to know where you're going.

5:25 p.m.

Special Adviser, Carbon Markets, Terramera Inc.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. MacGregor. Those are good, wise words.

Thank you, Ms. Donnelly.

We will go to Mr. Steinley for five minutes.

Go ahead, Mr. Steinley.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here.

Ms. Jackson, you said something that really stuck with me when you said government policies have “unintended consequences”. We just did a study on MP Lawrence's bill about exempting some fuels from the carbon tax.

Would you say that's one of the unintended consequences, a catch-all policy? There aren't, for example, alternatives to barn heating or irrigation pump running or grain dryers. Could you talk about some of that from a producer standpoint? Maybe Mr. Thompson could as well.

It's nice to have some more Saskatchewan common sense here at the committee. Perhaps you guys could just expand on some of those unintended consequences that government policies sometimes lead producers to have to undergo?

5:25 p.m.

Director, Policy and International Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Fawn Jackson

Our position has been that the reason we exempt agriculture is that we don't have options. We just end up pushing food production to other jurisdictions through leakage. Really, the place to invest is on the innovation and technology front to help producers make changes when they're available and to invest in that research portion.

I'm going to hand it over to Duane, because, of course, he has both a grain and a cattle operation, to talk about the impact of carbon taxes on his operation.

5:25 p.m.

Chair, Environment Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Duane Thompson

The unintended consequence of the tax is that it hits home pretty hard, because when we have to operate under.... We can't change our market prices. We take the prices we get, and we get the extra taxes it costs us.

Agriculture is a system, and we talk about the systems that link everything together. When we're added on an extra tax.... I'm not really familiar with some of the other things, because we don't use some of the fuel for heating barns and things in our operation.

When it comes to carbon, one of the questions earlier was how much we can store. There is maybe a finite amount of carbon that we can store, but there's no finite amount of soil we can build in our systems.

I don't think that links into the unintended consequences question, but those are my thoughts.

June 8th, 2021 / 5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

I appreciate that very much. Thank you.

On behalf of my caucus colleague, Mr. Scheer, he would like to say hi, as you're a constituent of his out in Kelliher.

Mr. Ellis asked about EFPs, environmental farm plans. He said something about farmers not having a follow-through. I have a personal relationship with EFPs. My cousin did about 10,000 environmental farm plans in southwest Saskatchewan, and he said there was substantial farmer follow-through, because the ranchers and producers knew that making these changes and investments in the environmental farm plan and doing these policies were better for the soil and, in the long run, what's better for your soil is better for your grasslands. It's better for your farm's bottom line.

I'd just like your comments on some of the follow-through you've seen from environmental policies and some of the plans by producers from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. Maybe I'll hear from Ms. Donnelly as well, because I believe that Canadian ranchers and producers are doing more than is known with environmental practices. I'd just like to have your comments on that.

5:25 p.m.

Chair, Environment Committee, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Duane Thompson

That strikes a cord with me, personally, certainly. When we talk about sustainable farm practices and our environmental farm plan and some of the encouragements we get to apply the best management practices, those have been very effective.

When we look at our operation, the things that we've been able to take advantage of by having an environmental farm plan and our verified beef production plus system are all good for our marketing, but they are also good for us in our systems. By being able to be verified and have an environmental farm plan, we can prove to our consumers that we are committed to the environment.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you.

I'm sorry, we are out of time. Thank you, Mr. Steinley.

We have to work with a hard stop. They need the room for other committees, so we'll have to stop it here.

I'd like to thank, from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Mr. Duane Thompson and Ms. Fawn Jackson. Thank you also to Aldyen Donnelly from Terramera Inc. Thank you all for participating. That will conclude our study for today.

We shall see the rest of the committee on Thursday. Thank you, and have a good day.

The meeting is adjourned.