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Soy Canada Appears before Senate Agriculture Committee to discuss Climate Change

Posted on: June 9, 2017

Soy Canada recently spoke to the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry about the impact of climate change on the Canadian soybean sector.  

Below is the statement delivered by Director of Corporate Affairs Chris Masciotra and Director of Market Development Jim Millington on June 8, 2017.

 

Good morning Honourable Senators. It is a pleasure to be back here today, this time to share information about the impact of climate change on the Canadian soybean sector.

Background and Growth of the Industry

First, a quick background of Soy Canada and the soybean industry.  We are the national association representing the full soybean value chain in Canada.  Our members include producer groups representing farmers across Canada, seed development companies, soybean exporters, processors, and industry affiliates.  Soy Canada facilitates industry cooperation and represents the industry on domestic and international issues affecting the growth and development of the sector.

The Canadian soybean sector has experienced tremendous growth in recent years:

  • Over the last decade, seeded area has grown from 3 million acres to 5.5 million acres and is expected to grow further to 10 million acres by the year 2027
  • Production has almost doubled over the same period, climbing to 6.4 million MT in 2016
  • And exports have increased by over 250 percent since 2006. Last year Canada exported roughly 4.8 million MT of soybeans and soy products valued at over $2.8 billion

The economic contribution of our industry to the Canadian economy is substantial.  In 2016, Soy Canada completed an economic impact study, which identified that in 2014, the Canadian soybean sector contributed over $5.8 billion to Canada’s GDP. Our sector is both directly and indirectly linked to over 54,000 full time jobs across Canada. (Source: Economic Impact Study of the Canadian Soybean Industry)

Global demand for food-grade soybeans, commodity soybeans, and value-added soy products continues to grow at a very strong pace. Demand for soy protein is increasing and Canada is well positioned to be a reliable supplier to domestic and international customers.

Our work at Soy Canada is to enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian soybean sector by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers related to international trade, addressing market access issues, supporting market development activities, coordinating research and innovation while promoting our industry at home and abroad.

Sustainability, Climate Change Policies, Carbon Pricing and Competitiveness

Soy Canada acknowledges the need for government to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through policies and regulations.  Soy Canada also recognizes the importance of resource efficiency to lower costs and greenhouse gas emissions without the need of government policies and regulations such as carbon pricing

Soybean production has proven to be a favorable and environmentally sustainable source of protein because of high protein quality, nutritional value and the efficient use of land, water, and energy. Soy uses far less water than other protein sources, which ultimately saves more than four million gallons of water for each ton of soybeans produced. (Source: Virtual water trade to Japan and in the world, T. Oki, M. Sato, A. Kawamura, M. Miyake, S. Kanae, and K. Musiake).

One of the key benefits of growing soybeans in a traditional crop rotation is the ability for soybeans to remove nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil by the action of soybean root nodules and soil bacteria.  Further, soybeans produce 161 kilograms of usable protein per acre of farmland which is significantly more than all other forms of complete protein. When comparing land impacted by production and end product, soy protein offers a protein solution that is 17 times more effective than alternative proteins. (Source: USDA; FAO/WHO/UNICEF Protein Advisory Group (2004)).  

Soy Canada is an active participant on the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops (CRSC), an industry initiative led by the Canada Grains Council. The CRSC will soon be publishing a 2016 Carbon Study which will establish a definitive reporting platform on the sustainability metrics of Canadian crops.  The data and information collected through this study will assist in identifying our natural capital strengths.  Soybeans are one of the 10 crops studied and will figure prominently in the final report.

It is important to note that the Canadian soy industry relies heavily on international trade. Approximately 70 percent of our domestic production is shipped overseas.  As a result, it is important that government regulation related to climate change strike the right balance between creating the conditions to improve our natural capital while ensuring our industry is equipped to compete internationally and deliver on the recommendation to unleash the growth potential of the agriculture sector identified by the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth.

The global marketplace for soy is highly competitive for raw soybeans as well as for the processing derivatives including protein meal, vegetable oil, renewable fuels and other bio-products. Many of the jurisdictions where Canadian soy exporters compete do not have carbon pricing mechanisms in place, which, in some cases, may provide them with a competitive edge.  Our members are of the view that practical opportunities exist for the soybean sector to assist in Canada’s transition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining our global competitiveness.

In the last 35 years, Canadian soybean growers have made substantial improvements in environmental practices. Since 1981, their energy use has decreased by 26%, and the net greenhouse gas footprint per unit of soybean output has decreased by 17%. (Source: Canadian Field Print Initiative).  Both private and public sector research and development has led to an increase in average soybean yields – from 40.1 bu/ac in 2005 to 44.1 bu/ac in 2016 – an increase of 10%. With the advent of new breeding techniques, the rate of improvement will increase and varieties will move further north in Western Canada.

Canadian soybean growers practice sustainable methods in 4 areas:

  1. Conservation tillage – reduced tillage and zero tillage are now common practices with many soybean growers in Canada. These techniques help to reduce the use of fossil fuels while improving erosion control and preventing soil compaction.
  2. Cover Crops – Many Canadian farmers over-seed fallow fields with protective, nutrient building cover crops that conserve moisture and control weeds.
  3. Responsible Pest Management – integrated pest management and economic thresholds help farmers use pesticides sensibly.
  4. Precision Agriculture – pesticides, fuel and fertilizer are being used more efficiently as farmers adopt new innovations, such as variable rate technology, mobile applications, auto-steer tractors, GPS and yield monitors. Many growers also subscribe to the 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices that optimize the efficiency of fertilizer use.

Conclusion

Canada has one of the best agriculture production environments in the world. Our deep, fertile soil, abundant water supplies and healthy biodiversity are ideal for a thriving, growing industry that sets the global standard for sustainable production. Canadian soybean growers understand the need to protect and improve our natural capital because our ability to farm profitably and efficiently depends on it.

That’s why Soy Canada is in the process of developing an industry strategic plan involving the entire soybean value chain that will set ambitious but realistic growth targets and will guide the growth of our industry over the coming decade.  One of the chief commitments in this strategy is to be recognized as the global leader in sustainable production of high quality soybeans.  This is a priority for our industry and one that will build on our sterling international reputation.

We thank the committee for inviting us to discuss this important issue.  We welcome your questions and feedback.


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