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June 06, 2024

Climate change, extreme weather events, pollution and urbanization are damaging Canadian soil, and are threatening food security, the environment and millions of livelihoods, according to a new report by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. 

 

Critical Ground: Why Soil is Essential to Canada’s Economic, Environmental, Human, and Social Health digs deep into the critical role of soil in mitigating climate change, contributing to biodiversity and putting food on tables. The committee is urging the federal government to lead the way in protecting this vital national resource. 

 

In 2022, agricultural and food product exports totalled nearly $93 billion. However, the committee heard that there is a lack of awareness of the value of soil, and that education is crucial to changing perceptions of farming in Canada.   

 

The report highlights concerns from farmers, ranchers, producers and soil health experts about the unprecedented challenges to growing food. Floods, droughts, wildfires and the loss of farmland are among the many causes of soil degradation across the country.  

 

The committee learned of many soil management practices that can help maintain soil health, but there is no “one-size-fits-all approach,” as soil and climate vary across the country. It is also difficult to analyze soil health data because governments, academic institutions, organizations and industry groups do not have a common means of gathering and sharing this information. The committee is recommending long-term funding for soil mapping and data aggregation across the country. 

 

The report makes 25 recommendations to the federal government to work with the Canadian agricultural and forestry sectors, as well as municipal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments, to tackle soil degradation and preservation aggressively.

 

 

-  The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry heard from 153 witnesses and received more than 60 written briefs and supporting documents from soil science researchers, agronomists, farmers, ranchers, foresters, environmental organizations, agri-businesses, industry groups and federal, provincial and territorial governments.

 

-  In 2022, primary agriculture farms covered 62.2 million hectares, or 6.2% of Canada’s total land and generated $36.3 billion of GDP.

 

-  Soil can absorb and store carbon, provide protection from flooding and drought, purify water and provide habitat for hundreds of organisms. Healthy soils produce food for Canadians and the world, and will help support Canada’s net-zero emissions targets by 2030 and 2050.

 

-  Soil health is a global concern. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that 33% of the world’s soil is already degraded and over 90% could become degraded by 2050.

 

“Soil is often overlooked, yet it’s essential to all life,” says Senator Rob Black, chair of the committee. “It grows our food and purifies our air and water. We must act now to preserve this valuable national resource, which is increasingly susceptible to climate change, floods, droughts, wildfires and the loss of farmlands. Canadian soil was at risk 40 years ago when the Senate released its first report on soil health. We don’t have another 40 years.”

 

Source:  Senate of Canada June 6, 2024 news release

 

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Submitted by Karen Davidson on 6 June 2024