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Carbon tax ignores ‘economic reality’ of farmers, say producers

Published in October, 2018

iPOLITICS

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Canadian farmers say they’re not happy the federal government is imposing a carbon tax on the four provinces that didn’t comply with its national climate plan.

In a statement Tuesday, Todd Lewis, a Saskatchewan farmer and president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said Ottawa’s decision to proceed with its plan despite farmers’ concerns “ignores the economic reality of Saskatchewan agriculture,” which is that farmers have few energy options.

“We have to transport our crops and livestock to our customers around the world, and in difficult years like 2018, we have to use energy to dry grain, or it will rot,” he said. “We have to heat livestock buildings, or animals freeze. We have no choice.”

The prime minister visited Lewis’s grain farm in 2017, where he met with opposition from farmers who fear a carbon tax will make the agriculture industry less competitive.

While Ottawa has granted exemptions for certain on-farm fuels, notably “purple” gas and diesel for on-farm agriculture equipment such as tractors and trucks, Lewis said the fact that natural gas and propane used outside the commercial greenhouse industry aren’t exempted will affect farmers’ bottom lines.

Road and rail transportation will be more expensive, he said.

The federal government said Tuesday it will increase the individual rebate for rural Canadians by 10 per cent, because they are more energy-reliant and have fewer transportation options. That rebate will go to residents of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Lewis isn’t the only farmer voicing concerns.

In a release Wednesday afternoon, Grain Growers of Canada president Jeff Nielsen urged the federal government to amend its exemption for on-farm fuels to include natural gas and propane, which he said are “essential farm fuels, particularly during a wet fall like the one farmers are currently experiencing across Canada.”

Natural gas and propane fuel grain dryers. Prairie farmers have been using grain dryers extensively this harvest to prevent soggy and snowy grain from spoiling.

“Providing additional relief will not impact growers’ commitments to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Growers are already doing that, and they will continue to work hard to grow more with less,” Nielsen said.