20 Examples of Canadian Farmers Reducing GHG Emissions & Protecting the Environment

20 Examples of Canadian Farmers Reducing GHG Emissions cover image

Did you know Canadian farmers are world-class in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protecting the environment?

In light of the federal government’s announcement to reduce GHGs from fertilizer use on farms across the country by 30%, we must recognize the incredible progress Canadian farmers’ have already made in reducing emissions.

Digging into the facts, we discover that farmers across Canada are already growing their crops and livestock using world-class emission-reducing methods and techniques. We highlight some of those for you below!

global food demand to grow 70% by 2050

Canadian Farmers & the Environment: 20+ Facts

1 - Canadian farmers may have already reduced GHG emissions from use of nitrogen fertilizers by 30% [12]

2 - Since 1981, there has been a 10% reduction in net agricultural GHG emissions in Canada – primarily driven by beneficial management practices in regions where crop production is most intensive [9]

3 - Between 1990 and 2019, the carbon footprint of milk produced by Canadian farmers dropped by 24% on a per-litre basis [1]

4 - Today, the carbon footprint for each litre of milk produced in Canada is less than half the global average for dairy production [1]

5 - Canada’s emissions from milk production are among the lowest in the world, similar or lower than producing milk in countries like France, New Zealand, and the U.S. [2]

6 - Canada’s dairy farmers are committed to reaching net-zero emissions through a combination of emissions reductions and carbon removals [1]

7 - Between 1981 and 2011, Canadian canola farmers [3]:

• reduced their total GHG emissions by 71%

• improved land use efficiency by 31%

• reduced energy use by 43%

8 - Canadian canola farmers’ carbon footprint is 42% lower than their canola-growing competitors [3]

9 - Western Canadian canola farmers are world-class leaders in no-till practices; In 1991, 7% of their farmland was seeded with no-till practices, versus 65% in 2016 [3]

10 - With low- and no-till practices, Canadian farmers sequester 11 million tonnes of GHGs each year [3]

11 - Canadian canola farmers aim to sequester an additional 5 million tonnes of GHGs in Canadian soils every year [3]

12 - Canadian farmers are making fewer passes over their fields and using less fuel. Conservation tillage practices have resulted in 126-194 million fewer litres of diesel fuel used on Canadian farms each year, reducing GHG emissions by about 450,000 to 750,000 tonnes per year [3]

13 - Canola is the only Canadian crop to have growers certified sustainable by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) body. ISCC certification targets the reduction of GHGs, sustainable use of land, and the protection of natural habitats [3]

14 - Between 1962 and 2012, Canadian egg farmers [4]:

• reduced energy usage by 41%

• decreased water consumption by 69%

• minimized their land footprint by 81%

15 - Between 1962 and 2012, Canadian egg farmers reduced their total GHG emissions by 72% [4]

16 - Over the last 40 years, Canadian chicken farmers have adopted practices on the farm to reduce environmental impacts considerably, resulting in [5]:

• 37% lower carbon footprint

• 37% reduction in non-renewable energy consumption

• 45% less water consumption

17 - Compared to other chicken-producing regions of the world, Canadian chicken has one of the lowest carbon footprints [5]

18 - 80% of chicken farmers across Canada have taken measures to maximize their energy efficiency (e.g. improve electricity usage) [5]

19 - Canada is an efficient beef producer in regards to GHG emissions, with a total footprint of less than half the world average at 11.4 kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide equivalents per kg of live weight [6]

20 - At 4.4 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per kg of carcass weight, Canadian pork producers have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world [7]:

• North America – 4.3 kg.CO2eq

Canada – 4.4 kg.CO2eq

• Eastern Europe – 5.4 kg.CO2eq

• Western Europe – 5.9 kg.CO2eq

• Latin America & Caribbean – 6.7 kg.CO2eq

• East Asia & Southeast Asia – 8.2 kg.CO2eq

• Oceania – 8.9 kg.CO2eq

21 - Efforts made by Canadian farmers to sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon into soils negate the carbon emissions of producing a pulse crop, creating a carbon neutral or even a carbon negative crop. In effect, these practices make Canadian peas and lentils effectively carbon neutral or negative [8].

Industry-Led Report Highlights Challenges

canola farming facts Canada - farmers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions byy 71 per cent from 1981 to 2011

A report commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada [11], explores what effects a 30% reduction in total GHG emissions from the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers on Canadian farms would have on crop yields and farm finances [10].

The results aren’t pretty, nor should they be desirable given the current food and energy shortages worldwide.

The report finds that it would be possible for a 14% reduction in emissions from fertilizer by 2030, but reaching 30% would be detrimental to farmers as a whole.

"I believe what (this report) is saying is the 30% reduction target is not achievable without putting production and exports in jeopardy, and we've been saying that all along," said Tom Steve, general manager of the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions via CBC [10].

Report highlights:

> The federal government’s plan to reduce fertilizer use on farms will overwhelmingly effect on Western Canadian farmers versus those elsewhere in the country

> Agricultural productivity of major Canadian crops has increased by 35% since 2005 through agricultural intensification and adoption of new, innovative technologies

> Production of canola, Canada’s most valuable and nutrient-intense crop, has gone up by 80% during the same time frame

> Fertilizer consumption in Canada has remained on the rise over the past two decades in support of these increased crop yields and global demand for food is still rising at a record rate

> It is estimated that a 30% absolute emission reduction for a Canadian farmer with 1000 acres of canola and 1000 acres of wheat, will see their profits reduced by approximately $38,000 to $40,500 annually.

> In 2020, Western Canadian farmers planted 20.8 million acres of canola. Using these values, cumulate farm revenues from canola would drop by $396 million to $441 million on an annual basis. Wheat farmers could also experience a drop of roughly $400 million in revenues.

Support Canadian Farmers

Canadian agriculture is world-class - banner

Canadian farmers are already world-class in reducing emissions and protecting the environment, with many subsectors already operating with some of the lowest carbon footprints compared to others globally.

Additionally, our farming families have already made sustainable practices a huge part of their daily operations, contributing to GHG emissions on a large scale unaccounted for because of unavailable data.

Let’s recognize those facts.

The world needs more Canadian food and agricultural products – not less!


1 - Dairy Farmers of Canada - How We’re Reducing Emissions, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://dairyfarmersofcanada.ca/en/our-commitments/sustainability/emissions)

2 - FAO - Climate change and the global dairy cattle sector, Date Accessed: September 2022 (http://www.fao.org/3/CA2929EN/ca2929en.pdf)

3 - https://www.ccga.ca/policy/Documents/Sustainability-201909.pdf

4 - Canadian Canola Growers Association - Canola, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://www.eggfarmers.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2020-11-18_Egg-Farmers-of-Canada_Sustainability-Report-2019.pdf)

5 - Chicken Farmers of Canada - Sustainability Report - Date Accessed: September 2022 ( https://www.chickenfarmers.ca/chicken-farmers-of-canadas-sustainability-report/)

6 - Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef - National Beef Sustainability Assessment https://crsb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Assessment-and-Strategy_summary_report_2016.pdf

7 - Group AGECO - Streamlined Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Canadian Pork Production, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://www.cpc-ccp.com/uploads/userfiles/files/GroupeAGECO_LCApork_FINAL%20updated%20report.pdf)

8 – Pulse Canada - Sustainability, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://pulsecanada.com/sustainability)

9 - CISION Newswire - Grain Growers of Canada to lead ‘Road to 2050’ net-zero emissions initiative, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/grain-growers-of-canada-to-lead-road-to-2050-net-zero-emissions-initiative-811944466.html)

10 – CBC - Government emissions targets for fertilizer use unrealistic, industry report argues, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/government-emission-fertilizer-unrealistic-1.6574486)

11 - Fertilizer Canada - Fertilizer: Reducing Emissions, Increasing Competitiveness, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://fertilizercanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Emissions-Reduction-Initiative-Impacts-Solutions.pdf)

12 - Glacier farm media - Producers question Ottawa’s fertilizer target assumptions, Date Accessed: September 2022 (https://www.producer.com/news/producers-question-ottawas-fertilizer-target-assumptions/)


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