In its latest report tabled in August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made a clear statement: all public decision-makers must take immediate action to limit the consequences of climate change. They invite all sectors of the economy, including ours – agricultural and food – to participate actively and immediately in the fight against climate change.
As dairy farmers, respect for the environment is already at the heart of our work and our daily lives. Climate, water, air, soil and the richness of the ecosystem directly influence our production. We need healthy soil to grow quality food for our animals. We are committed to taking care of them for future generations and to ensuring the sustainable development of Québec dairy farms.
With our buffer strips, windbreaks and forage fields, we contribute to improving air and water quality. Our soil management practices, such as crop rotation, zero till and diversified crops promote healthy soil. We also recover manure as natural fertilizer to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers.
The most recent milk lifecycle analysis showed that milk producers in Québec reduced their carbon footprint by 8.7%, water consumption by 12.5% and land use by 16.2% over a five-year period. The results also show that the carbon footprint of one kilogram of milk produced in Québec is one of the smallest in the world. At 0.93 kg CO2e per kg of milk, it is less than half the global average of 2.50 kg CO2e per kg of milk.
Furthermore, milk production is governed by a supply management system that aligns production with local demand. This system prevents food waste and reduces the distance traveled by food products. Our agricultural policy is based on the production of fresh and nutritious local food, considerations that have never been as important for Quebecers as they are now.
Despite the measures already in place and the fact that the fossil fuel and transportation sectors remain by far the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture, and especially livestock farming, is often directly criticized. The latest available data show that enteric fermentation by all bovines only accounted for 3.6% of GHG emissions in Québec in 2018, an 11.2% decline since 1990. Even though this improvement is encouraging, environmental performance continues to guide consumers’ choices from farm to plate. To retain the interest of younger generations in dairy products, it will be necessary to do even more in sustainable development. This is especially important given that alternative beverages, which are gaining in popularity, are often presented as an environmental choice, even though they sometimes involve irrigation or have travelled long distances to get to our shelves. Furthermore, they don’t offer the same nutritional value as milk, which is a balanced source of protein, calcium and other nutrients. The proliferation of products on the market impacts on our sales and we must be proactive to retain our consumers. We must publicize our success stories to show that dairy farmers are dedicated to the preservation of natural resources and have a genuine commitment to participating in the fight against climate change.
We must publicize our success stories to show that
dairy farmers are dedicated to the preservation of
natural resources and have a genuine commitment to
participating in the fi ght against climate change.
Since September, the last part of the proAction program, the environment, has been in force on all Canadian farms. With this initiative, we are pursuing our continuous improvement efforts in order to provide transparency to consumers. ProAction is a preferred way to demonstrate the high standards behind all milk produced in Canada.
Governments are also mobilizing and deploying a range of programs to help farm businesses develop better agri-environmental practices. The Québec government’s 2020-2030 Sustainable Agriculture Plan and the federal government’s Agricultural Clean Technology Program are good examples.
Collectively and individually, we must also continue to develop concrete actions and measures on our farms. Producers’ collective initiatives are great successes that have made a difference and given our sector a positive image. A very good example is the success of Coop Agri-Énergie Warwick, the very first agricultural cooperative dedicated to renewable energy production in Québec.
The elected representatives of our organization have made commitments to do even more. Several major projects are in progress. Funding was received recently from the Québec government’s Ecoleader fund to implement a sustainable development strategy that will establish an action plan and targets to improve the sustainability of dairy production in Québec. Another project funded by the Programme de développement sectoriel (Sector Development Program), under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, will allow us to analyze the lifecycle of the entire Québec dairy commodity chain, from the farm to consumers. This will allow us, in collaboration with our partners, to better identify areas for improvement and coordinate the best actions to be implemented on farms and in plants. In addition, several environmental research projects are in progress that will ultimately enable us to support farmers in their continuous improvement efforts in environmental and sustainable development matters. Consumers’ expectations are clear and precise. As farmers, we are determined to participate in the required changes. Let’s continue to grow our industry and make it continuously greener.
Daniel Gobeil, Chairman
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