The federal government's fertilizer emissions reduction target is expected to remain a key issue in 2023.

Last year, Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a "fertilizer emissions reduction target" of 30 per cent by 2030.

That news raised a lot of concern with farmers as to just what that would mean, and if it could eventually result in a fertilizer ban.

Bibeau says the focus is on emissions, adding they are absolutely not against fertilizer use.

"We know that farmers need this input and we have to use it the best way possible. We have to bring as many farmers as possible into this movement. I know many farmers already apply the 4-R to the greatest extent, but many more don't know about it yet, or have not joined the movement yet."

The concept of the 4R principle is to apply the Right Source of nutrient, at the Right Rate, at the Right Time and in the Right Place. 

"It's really by working all together making sure that the best practices are known by as many farmers as possible. That they can afford the good technologies, and that we by investing in research and innovation will also probably be able to go further. This is very, very important that we work in a collaborative manner. Our approach is to go by incentives, you know, providing incentives to farmers through the on-farm Climate Action Fund. So, for example, we provide incentives to farmers to adopt these bits of best practices."

Bibeau notes they are investing in research and innovation to help find the best practices for farmers while keeping the production needs of farmers in mind.

"We are investing in research and innovation because we know that, in terms of measurement, we have to find a better approach. Actually investing in our "living labs" across the country is a good way to do so.  So, with our scientists being in the field in these different "living labs" across the country, it allows us to put in place different approaches in different environments."

With the rising cost of fertilizer over the years, it's become an input that farmers monitor the use of very closely in an effort to save money, while still trying to hit their production goals.

Kevin Hursh is a farmer and agricultural commentator and says fertilizer use varies from farm to farm and province to province.

""For instance, in Saskatchewan, it is not against the law to spread nitrogen fertilizer on frozen ground. It is in Alberta and Manitoba, especially Manitoba, where they have requirements this not be done. Even though we don't like to talk about it. I think there's been quite an increase in people spreading fertilizer in the winter to save time in the spring."

He notes the government has been talking about using incentives to help farmers make changes.

"Encouragement and incentives, and financial support for using more nitrogen stabilizers on nitrogen products, so that they have less volatility and less gassing off.  Therefore, the nitrous oxide emissions are reduced. So I think there's things that can be done that wouldn't necessarily be opposed by the majority of producers."

The Conservatives Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Agri-Food and Food Security, John Barlow says they've been raising awareness on the Liberal's fertilizer emissions policy to not only producers but consumers as well on the impact this will have on food security and affordability.

He says they're still trying to get the Liberals to admit this is a policy that's not based on sound science and data.

Barlow says they also need to recognize the great work that Canadian producers are already doing when it comes to efficiency and reducing inputs wherever possible, while at the same time increasing their yields.

He notes that farmers face increasing costs and points to the recent food report that shows when the Liberal's triple the carbon tax a typical 5000-acre farm will be paying $150,000 a year in carbon tax.

"That makes Canadian agriculture unsustainable economically. There's no farm that I know that can absorb those kinds of costs, they're already struggling with the carbon tax where it is and increased fertilizer costs are insurmountable."