Did you know that about 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from crop and livestock production? The main gases emitted by agricultural activities are carbon dioxide and methane.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, these emissions are essentially attributable to the crop production (such as cereals and oilseeds) and animal production (beef, dairy, poultry and swine) activities.

Specifically, activities resulting in emissions include:

  • Crop production: application of biosolids and inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, decomposition of crop residues, loss of soil organic carbon, cultivation of organic soils, indirect emissions from leaching and volatilization, field burning of agricultural residues, liming, and urea application
  • Animal production: animal housing, manure storage, manure deposited by grazing animals, and application of manure to managed soils


Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2021 (see long description below)

Greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, Canada, 1990 to 2021.
Credit: Government of Canada.

With this in mind, the Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI), in partnership with Co-operators, has launched a new report on Canadian agricultural carbon markets, entitled Carbon Offsets for Farmers.

Farmers are important stewards of Canada’s agricultural landscapes and are also sustainability leaders when it comes to addressing today’s climate and biodiversity issues. Carbon credits are a proven avenue to generate income and leverage private-sector investment for sustainable farming practices. They represent a major opportunity for farmers, but accessing complex carbon markets remains a challenge for many in the farming community.

Carbon Offsets for Farmers will help farmers assess the many carbon offset opportunities, the process for engaging in the market, barriers and limitations to participation, and key developing themes to watch.

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“Leveraging private-sector capital to support and sustain the adoption of environmentally friendly practices will help farmers as they continue to play a vital role as responsible stewards of Canada’s agricultural landscapes.” said Ryan Tougas-Cooke, senior research associate at the Smart Prosperity Institute. “We’re excited to work with farmers on mitigating the barriers to accessing carbon and ecosystem services markets, and find ways to make these markets work for farmers.”

Carbon market “quick guide” tool

The report offers a new “Quick Guide” tool, found below, that can help farmers quickly assess what type of carbon market they may want to pursue, based on factors like their location, readiness to act, and interest in working with an aggregator to reduce the administrative burden of participating.

When a relevant provincial market or protocol does not exist, the Quick Guide suggests farmers could consider when they want to change their farming practices. For instance, farmers who are thinking about trying something new this growing season may want to explore immediately available voluntary market opportunities, while farmers who are thinking of adopting a practice in the longer term may want to consider the set of federal carbon offset protocols that are currently being developed.

The full report is available here.

Featured image credit: Unsplash/Phillip Reiner

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