New Emission Regulations Could Stunt Farm Production

The global agricultural landscape as we know it faces uncertainty as new emissions regulations force business-as-usual to become a thing of the past. 

The Netherlands unveiled plans to reduce nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions this month, requiring farmers to use less fertilizer and reduce their livestock numbers. Cuts up to 70 per cent in some areas are expected, likely resulting in the shuttering of some farm operations.

Groups in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland joined the Netherlands protests, as the “anti-farming” policies targeting fertilizer and livestock are expected to soon spread to other countries. Having seen the political unrest and economic demise caused by the ban on all chemical fertilizers last year in Sri Lanka, the fears of agricultural leaders and businesses are not unfounded.

The push for increased regulation is on the horizon for Canada, too. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada published a discussion paper this spring on its plan to reduce N2O emissions from nitrogen fertilizer use at the farm level by 30 per cent. The target, originally announced in December 2020, remains a priority for the federal government. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently sparked further fears about reducing agriculture emissions.

How Farmers Will Meet Requirements

New emissions regulations remain unclear regarding how the emissions reduction will be calculated, leaving farmers uncertain about the path forward. For example, will stewardship practices that reduce each fertilizer unit’s emissions intensity be recognized in measuring emissions? Other practices, such as using enhanced efficiency fertilizers, and deploying variable rate technology, may not be accounted for, given the government’s current method for estimating the amount of N2O emitted from nitrogen fertilizer. 

With the uncertainty of the emissions formula, farm groups have expressed major concerns about the potential expectation to restrict fertilizer use based on volume to reach the target. Since the Dutch are considered some of the most environmentally efficient livestock producers, this would likely decrease overall output, leading to high-cost, less-efficient production in other parts of the world, potentially increasing global nitrogen pollution. 

And if production shifts to countries that follow emissions regulations, the global ROI for the farm sector may be seriously affected, as farmers are not convinced that a decrease in fertilizer use can equate to a revenue increase.

Increased Regulations Decrease Yield

If these regulations stick, farmers can expect to see a severe drop in crop yields unless a proven solution is found. As demonstrated by changes in manure spreading due to regulations of phosphorus and nitrogen applications in intensive livestock operations, it may be possible to find a workaround. In this case, agriculture workers became more aware of where they spread manure and reduced overspreading in many areas (and therefore reduced leaching). 

Depending on how emissions are calculated, reducing fertilizer use may not be enough to meet the target, causing a decrease in yield production to no one’s benefit. However, a replacement option would provide crops with needed nutrients while protecting the soil: regenerative fertilizers. 

How Replenish Nutrients Can Help

Companies like Replenish Nutrients have heavily invested in research to develop fertilizers that heal the soil while producing equal or better results — feeding the soil microbes a balanced diet of nutrient crops and making regenerative fertilizers better than their synthetic counterparts.

Our products use the mineral form of P, K, and S in conjunction with bioactive ingredients. They do not leach like their conventional counterparts nor have a nitrogen emission footprint, offering farmers a method to fertilize responsibly while adhering to possible prescription rates.

Neil Wiens, Replenish Nutrients CTO, explained, “The future of fertilizer use in Canada requires innovations like ours that offer the nutrients needed for optimal growing conditions and a low salt profile that will improve soil quality.  We help increase both the organic matter and the microbe activity in the soil, two key ingredients for carbon drawdown.“

Wiens continues, “Replenish is committed to a zero-waste manufacturing approach for our non-chemical fertilizers, meeting sustainability expectations for growers in this increasingly regulated environment.” While the ban on Nitrogen Oxide is bad enough for farmers, there continues to be a major push to ban Glyphosate very soon as well, which will cause further chaos in the agriculture sector. It’s beginning to look like the switch to regenerative fertilizers will be critical to maintaining healthy soil, high yield, and compliance with government regulations.  

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