By incentivizing producers to plant permanent forage instead of annual crops on marginal and saline soils, the province believes it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48,000 tons by 2030.
That’s why the provincial agriculture ministry is applying for the federal government’s low carbon economy fund to help pay for that pasture seeding program.
“We estimate there’s about 81,000 acres that could be seeded over three years, starting in 2019 if the project proceeds,” said Bill Greuel, an assistant deputy minister of agriculture.
The assumption is that converting that much land into pasture will reduce greenhouse gas emissions because less nitrogen fertilizer will be used and the plants will sequester carbon.
“That also comes with other environmental benefits, like improved water quality and increased biodiversity as well,” Greuel said.
The $6.5 million project would be funded with $1.9 million from the province, $1.9 million from the federal government and $2.85 million from producers.
“There would be an application process to the provincial government and we would help producers administer that and they would receive a rebate once we’ve confirmed the acres that they are seeding and know they’ve put this marginal land back into permanent cover,” Greuel said.
The $2 billion low carbon economy fund includes $1.4 billion to provinces that have adopted a carbon tax or a cap and trade, which is something that Saskatchewan has refused to do. That means that $62 million that was earmarked to Saskatchewan is now being added to a competitive pot that all jurisdictions can apply for. The province has made 11 applications to the fund.
Greuel said if the pasture seeding program isn’t successful in receiving money, it will be funded in a different manner.
“We do believe this is an important program for producers so we’ll be supporting this either through this joint venture with the low carbon economy fund or through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which is a cost-shared program agreement with the federal government.”
The assistant deputy minister also emphasized the province’s environmental plan focuses on more than just greenhouse gas mitigation.
It also looks at economic impacts, resiliency and recovery from extreme climate events, adaptation, and quality of life for Saskatchewan residents.