© AgMedia Inc.
by BETTER FARMING STAFF
An international dairy organization wants to take a proactive approach to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by exploring how to standardize carbon foot print calculations.
This year, the International Dairy Federation will study what factors should be taken into account when calculating a dairy operation’s impact on the environment.
“At this point it’s a proposal,” says Therese Beaulieu, Dairy Farmers of Canada spokesperson. The study will take between six and 10 months to complete and will involve researchers around the world, she says. Canadian dairy organizations and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will support the effort with funding and human resources.
Beaulieu says the study is motivated by the recognition that companies are using carbon foot print calculations as a way to market their products. There’s no one way to do this because “a lot of different organizations or even governments are trying to come up with ways to calculate (environmental impacts).”
There is also worldwide interest in reducing carbon footprints. The Netherlands encourages farmers to become energy neutral by producing the energy they need on the farm, she points out by way of example.
The study comes on the heels of legislation that came in effect Jan. 20 in the United States requiring confined animal feeding operators to register and report emissions such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from their facilities. Failing to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency-enforced legislation can result in fines of up to $25,000 US per day.
The National Pork Producers Council has filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement and the way it has been administered.
Don McCabe, vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, notes that the emissions measured under the new U.S. law are not greenhouse gases and are not issues being looked at in Canada at this time. Moreover, he says Ontario farmers shouldn’t be concerned that efforts to control greenhouse emissions will lead to regulations.
He points out that Canadian producers are not currently regulated on any greenhouse emissions and in Ontario, a carbon-offset system could come into effect by 2012. Such a system would create opportunities for farmers, he says.
Keeping track of emissions will help farmers, McCabe says. “If you are wasting energy, greenhouse gases are an indicator.”
Will livestock production be among the sectors to take advantage of opportunities in a carbon-offset system? Alberta’s carbon offset system indicates there may be some hurdles.
Peggy Strankman, manager of environmental affairs at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, says Alberta is the only province with a functioning carbon offset system, she says. The system offers agricultural-related protocols for offsetting greenhouse gases, including three beef protocols.
Strankman says the main protocol used is minimum and no-till crop production. Beef protocols, such as adding edible oils like flax or canola to beef cattle diet to decrease methane emissions, aren’t used “because of economics.”
Strankman asserts that in Canada, transportation produces three times more the amount of greenhouse gases than does livestock. That’s significantly different from international figures released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006. That report suggests livestock production is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, a larger share than transportation.
She attributes the difference to efficient approaches to livestock production in Canada and inherent problems with the United Nations statistic. It not only reflects livestock production but also emissions related to making feed and transporting livestock, meat and milk.
“There’s a lot of questions that don’t come up when you get that simplistic ‘don’t eat meat because it’s 18 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions,” she says. “It’s a very simplistic response to a very complex situation.” BF