Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card


Pillar: #3 Works with Nature

This principle speaks to optimizing the contributions of ecosystems and improving ecosystem resilience.

Summary of Indicator Data

Agriculture-Related Indicators

42. Land management inputs on farms, Status: Getting Worse
43. Farm water conservation practices, Status: Getting Better
44. Water use, by industry, Status: Getting Better
45. Freshwater quality, by land use, Status:One Point in Time Data*
46. Agricultural emissions, Status:Getting Worse
47. Farms reporting organic products for sale, Status:Getting Better
48. Households participating in composting kitchen waste, Status: Getting Better
49. Hectares of forest deforested from agriculture, Status: Getting Better
50. Preservation land practices, Status: One Point in Time Data*

Ecosystem Protection Indicators

51. Protected land area, Status: Getting Better
52. Protected marine area, Status: Getting Better
53. Major fish stocks status, Stable: Stable

Compound Indices

54. Biodiversity index, Stable:Getting Better
55. Soil quality index, Stable: Getting Better
56. Water quality index, Stable:Getting Worse
57. Air quality index, Stable: Getting Better

*For this indicator we were only able to extract data from one point in time. We expect that this data will continue to be collected on a regular basis; therefore this current data point will act as the baseline for future reports.

Agriculture-Related Indicators

Indicator 42: Land management inputs on farms—average acres per farm reporting

Indicator 42
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

Of those farms reporting the use of land inputs such as commercial fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, the average area per farm applying these inputs increased between 1991 and 2011. Herbicides and commercial fertilizer are the most widely used land inputs.

Indicator 43: Farm water conservation practices

Indicator 43
Source: Statistics Canada, Agricultural Water Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

This data captures the conservation practices of those farms who reported using irrigation. In 2014, 5,855 farms reported using irrigation compared to 7,310 farms in 2012 and 7,685 farms in 2010. Between 2010 and 2014 the proportion of farms reporting a variety of irrigation water conservation practices increased. Only 3.5% of farms reported using no conservation practices in 2014 compared to 21.9% in 2010. The practices most likely to be used in 2014 were watering at night or in the morning (47.1%), water or energy saving nozzles (46.6%) and incorporating compost or other organic matter into the soil (46.4%).

Indicator 44: Water use, by industry

Indicator 44
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian System of Environmental-Economic Accounts

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The total volume of water used for all industries in Canada fell from 35,200,016,000 cubic metres in 2009 to 34,671,607,000 cubic metres in 2013. The overall water use in the agricultural sector as a proportion of all industries in Canada decreased from 8.6% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2013. Declines were seen in the areas of crop production and animal production while the overall water use for food manufacturing increased slightly within this time period and water use for beverage and tobacco product manufacturing remained consistent.

Indicator 45: Freshwater quality, by land use

Indicator 45.png
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

Of the 167 core sites assessed for freshwater quality between 2010 and 2012, 3 sites were categorized as poor (2%), 26 as marginal (15%), 61 as fair (37%), 67 as good (40%), and 10 as excellent (6%). Among sites classified within an agriculture land use category, 0 sites were classified as poor, 8 as marginal (22%), 12 as fair (33%), 15 as good (42%), and 1 as excellent (3%).

Indicator 46: Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (crop and animal production)

Indicator 46.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian System of Environmental-Economic Accounts

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The total number of kilo tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by all industries in Canada increased from 585,665 kilo tonnes in 2009 to 620,698 kilo tonnes in 2013. The overall greenhouse gas emissions from crop and animal production as a proportion of all industries in Canada also increased from 11.68% in 2009 to 12.06% in 2013. Specifically, there was an increase from 68,427 kilo tonnes of greenhouse gases from crop and animal production in 2009 to 74,870 kilo tonnes in 2013.

Indicator 47: Farms reporting organic products for sale

Indicator 47.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The percentage of farms selling certified organic products increased from just less than one percent in 2001 to 1.8% in 2011. This proportion remains a very small fraction of the total farm population. For more information on organic products in Canada, please see the reports produced by the Canadian Organic Trade Association which are available at https://www.ota.com/ canada-ota/learn-about-organic-canada.

Indicator 48: Households participating in composting kitchen waste

Indicator 48
Source: Statistics Canada, Household and the Environment Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 2007 and 2013, the proportion of Canadians who participated in composting their kitchen waste rose from 37% in 2007 to 48.7% of households in 2013.

Indicator 49: Hectares of forest deforested due to agriculture

Indicator 49
Source: Natural Resources Canada Canadian Forest Service, The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report 2016

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The number of estimated hectares of Canadian forests deforested from agriculture decreased from 42,100 hectares in 1990 to 12,000 hectares in 2014. Nonetheless, agriculture still remains the industrial sector responsible for the most deforestation (35% of all hectares deforested in Canada in 2014). The next highest sector is the oil and gas sector which was responsible for 29% of all deforestation in 2014. It is unknown whether the decrease in deforestation between 1990 to 2014 was due to reduced availability of forested land suitable for agriculture or to other factors.

Indicator 50: Preservation land practices

Indicator 50
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

Canadian farms reported a variety of land conservation practices as of 2011. The most frequently used practice was crop rotation (58.1% of farms) followed by using windbreaks or shelterbelts (29.7%), employing rotational grazing (25.1%), keeping buffer zones around water bodies (20.7%) and exercising nutrient management planning (20.2%). Practices such as infield inter grazing or feeding, plowing down green crops and using winter cover crops were reported less frequently.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see:
Blay-Palmer, A. (2012). Alternative land use services (ALUS) and the case for multifunctional policy in Canada. In R. MacRae & E. Abergel (Eds.), Health and sustainability in the Canadian food system: Advocacy and Opportunity for civil society (pp. 39-69). Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press.

Allan, L. (2015). The Ontario East Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program; A case study. Available at http://nourishingontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ON-EastALUS-Social-Economy-of-Food.pdf.

Ecosystem Protection Indicators

Indicator 51: Protected land area

Indicator 51
Source: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas data which was accessed through Environment and Climate Change Canada

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of terrestrial area protected increased gradually from 5.6% in 1990 to 10.6% in 2015.

Indicator 52: Protected marine area

Indicator 52
Source: Canadian Council on Ecological Areas data which was accessed through Environment and Climate Change Canada

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of marine area protected increased gradually from 0.34% in 1990 to 0.9% in 2015. While the proportion of protected marine area has increased over time, it remains very low.

Indicator 53: Major fish stocks status

Indicator53
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada data accessed through Environment and Climate Change Canada

Interpretation of Findings: “Stable”

In 2014, of the 155 major fish stocks assessed, 75 stocks (48%) were classified as healthy, 40 stocks (26%) were classified in the cautious zone, and 16 stocks (10%) were classified in the critical zone. The status of 24 stocks (15%) which were assessed was unknown. This proportion represents an almost identical pattern seen for the previous years. While the state of fish stocks in Canada remains stable, it is important to note that less than half of assessed stocks are classified as healthy.

Compound Indices**

Indicator 54: Biodiversity index

54
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture Report #4 ^ The performance index scale is operationalized as follows: 0-19 = at risk, 20-39 = poor, 40-59 = moderate, 60-79 = good, 80-100 = desired.

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 1991 and 2011 there has been a consistent improvement in the biodiversity index across Canada from a ‘poor’ status in 1991 to a ‘moderate’ status in 2011.

Indicator 55: Soil quality index

55
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture Report #4 ^ The performance index scale is operationalized as follows: 0-19 = at risk, 20-39 = poor, 40-59 = moderate, 60-79 = good, 80-100 = desired.

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The soil quality index has improved over time between 1991 and 2011 from 67 to 77 (‘good’ status).

Indicator 56: Water quality index

56
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture Report #4 ^ The performance index scale is operationalized as follows: 0-19 = at risk, 20-39 = poor, 40-59 = moderate, 60-79 = good, 80-100 = desired.

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

Between 1991 and 2011 there was a decline in the water quality index across Canada from a ‘desired’ status in 1991 to a ‘good’ status in 2011.

Indicator 57: Air quality index

57
Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environmental Sustainability of Canadian Agriculture Report #4 ^ The performance index scale is operationalized as follows: 0-19 = at risk, 20-39 = poor, 40-59 = moderate, 60-79 = good, 80-100 = desired.

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 1991 and 2011 there was an improvement in the air quality index from a ‘moderate’ status in 1991 to a ‘good’ status in 2011.

** Results from multiple agri-environmental indicators related to soil, water, air quality and biodiversity were incorporated into performance indices by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. These indices (indicators 54 to 57) draw broad, national-level observations on the status and trends of agri-environmental sustainability of the agriculture and agri-food sector. Please see full report for more detailed information about data collection methods.

Please note: The Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card is a working document. If you have comments, questions, or would like to suggest additional data sources or indicators, please fill out the Food Counts Report Card Feedback Form.

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