Agriculture products leaving the agriculture sector are net-negative, there are over 100,000,000 tonnes of CO2e stored in our products.
Using the Government of Canada’s calculations, both on the emission side (NIR) and the grain production side (StatsCan), Canadian grain growers are net-negative carbon emitters. The Western Canadian Wheat Growers and other agriculture organizations are now sharing this message with elected officials and bureaucrats.
The calculation is straightforward using the 2019 NIR:
- Ag sector emissions are 60 Mt CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)
- Ag/fishing and forestry fuels are 14 Mt CO2e (from the Energy Sector)
- LULUCF – Cropland sequestered -7 Mt CO2e
- Net farm emissions are then 67 Mt CO2e
Within the agriculture sector we also capture more than 100 Mt CO2e in the grain we grow, which means that in 2019 the AG sector stored 33 Mt CO2e more than we emitted. This means that when our products leave our farm gate, they are net-negative. Farmers want to offset their farm emissions with the carbon they capture, the same way that other industries do.
Please see the accompanying slide deck that shows the direct reference in the NIR where short-term carbon stored in urea is subtracted from overall ammonia emissions in the Industry Sector (slide 9).
Farmers are starting to ask the question: “if our products are net-negative, then why are we being targeted with an unfair carbon tax that we cannot pass on?” Why should we be taking a 12% net income reduction in 2022 and when will the carbon tax yearly increases stop?
In addition, farmers are learning more about the NIR, based on the passed KAP resolution, farmers would like to see two changes to the NIR:
- LULUCF – Cropland, be applied against ag sector emissions, to reward farmers for storing carbon in the soil. Currently the NIR reports this number but them omits this from national totals.
- When farmers choose to use enhanced efficiency fertilizers like Super U, ESN and Agrotain to name just a few, we do not get an Ag Soils GHG reduction in the NIR. The NIR simply uses the N content of the fertilizer sold to determine the N2O emissions, not the type of product. These products are marketed as having reduced N2O emissions, but they cost more. If farmers are going to pay more, we should see a net benefit as positive feedback in the NIR as GHG emission reduction in the AG Soils category in our sector.
It would be appropriate for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food as well as the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to study the following issues:
- The real impact and costs of the carbon tax on Canadian small business that are price takers, such as farms.
- Not only the direct taxes like heating fuels, but also the indirect taxes on rail, truck transport, fertilizer production and the carbon inflation of many of the retail items that we buy to grow food should be accounted for.
- How much carbon do farmers store in ag products in our sector other than grain, such as meat, vegetables, dairy and honey.
Canadian 2017 Emissions by IPCC Sector with Cropland and Grain
60 Mt (ag) + 14 Mt (fuel) – 7 Mt (soil) – 100 Mt (ag products) = -33 Mt net storage/year
How Do We Get 100 Mt CO2e Stored in Ag Products?
- In 2017, Statistics Canada estimated all grain production (1) in Canada at:
- 74 Mt grains and
- 21 Mt canola
- Grains are 61% carbohydrates (2)
- Carbohydrates (C6H10O5) are 44% carbon
- To be conservative, the carbon in fiber protein and lipids has not been included
- Therefore grains are 27% carbon
- CO2 is also 27% carbon
- 1 tonne of grain contains 1 tonne of CO2e
- 74 Mt of grains = 74 Mt CO2e
- Canola is 44% oil (3)
- Canola oil is made of oleic and linoleic acids which are >75% carbon
- To be conservative, the carbon in fiber and protein has not been included
- Therefore canola is 33% carbon 0.8 tonne of canola contains 1 tonne of CO2e
- 21 Mt of canola = 26 Mt CO2e
74 Mt CO2e + 26 Mt CO2e = 100 Mt CO2e in ag products
This number does not include meat, vegetables or dairy. Including these carbon rich products would increase this number.
Is there a precedent in the NIR that gives credit to another sector for short term carbon capture?
Yes. Fertilizer manufactures are able to reduce their emission totals by the amount of short term CO2e stored in their products. Why not Agriculture?
“The amount of C02 recovered for urea production is then subtracted from the process-related emissions.”(4)
Short-term carbon storage is credited to fertilizer companies in the industry sector, why not the ag sector?
Statistics Canada reported that in 2017, 3.85 Mt of urea and 1.26 MT of UAN were produced in Canada (5). This totals 4.62 Mt of urea equivalent produced.
The NIR uses the equation 4-2 on p.101 that shows ammonia manufacturing emissions are reduced by the following amount due to short term carbon capture:
- =kg Urea produced x 0.728 kg C02/kg urea
- =4.62 x .728
- = 3.7 Mt C02e reduction
The NIR also states that ammonia manufacturing (nitrogen generation) was 2.6 Mt C02e (6). However this is after the short term carbon reduction has been applied. Actual ammonia emissions are 2.6 + 3.7 = 6.3 Mt CO2e. In the NIR, fertilizer manufactures have been given a credit for short term carbon and are able to reduce their ammonia production emissions by 59%:
- 3.7 / 6.3 = 59% reduction in ammonia production emissions based on short term carbon stored in “carbon-containing” fertilizers.
Farmers, in the ag sector release urea, we are the end user. In 2017 there was 2.5 Mt of short term CO2 passed from the fertilizer industry to farmers (7):
The ag sector and industry sector shouldn’t be treated differently. Agriculture should be given credit for short term carbon capture, just like the fertilizer industry. The ag sector net-negative, with an excess capture of -33 Mt CO2e in 2017.
(2): Chemistry of Cereal Grains – Peter Koehler and Herbert Wieser, Table 2.2
(4): 2019 NIR page 101, Section 4.5.2
(6): 2019 NIR, Table 2-8
(7): 2019 NIR, Table ES-2
Thank you to F. McPhee for his calculations and descriptions on this issue.