Manitoba cattle industry seeks carbon tax exemption for its role in sequestration

Manitoba’s cattle producers are warning its provincial government not to jeopardize the province’s environment by imposing carbon taxes on grass preservers.

Manitoba Beef Producers says that cattle grazers are key to retaining Manitoba’s vulnerable pastures and grasslands, so they should be exempt from any direct carbon cost imposed within the province.

“If you don’t have a good, solid and vibrant, economically viable cattle industry, you lose all the grasslands, you lose all the pasture and you lose all the opportunity to look at those as credits in terms of sequestration,” general manager Brian Lemon said in a call with reporters.

“We would argue that if the province is going to make its commitment, it needs a very strong and vibrant cattle industry, and it needs to grow and make available more pastures and more grasslands.”

The cattle producers have issued a policy paper calling for the Manitoba government to:

  • exempt cattle producers from direct carbon taxes or pricing
  • take money raised from carbon taxes in other areas to research, innovate and build systems that will reduce the cattle industry’s carbon emissions and boost the ability of pastures and grasslands to store carbon
  • provide farmers with incentives to protect ecologically sensitive land

There is heavy pressure on Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government to develop a provincial carbon pricing program in order to avoid a federal Liberal government imposed system.

Pallister has repeatedly called for a “made in Manitoba” solution, but its outlines have not yet been formulated.

Pallister has been sensitive to farmer concerns in many areas since taking power a year ago, but providing a complete carbon tax exemption for farmers and agriculture might be difficult.

Agriculture is a small part of the economy in populous provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, but it is a huge element in sparsely-populated Manitoba.

One-third of Manitoba’s carbon emissions come from agriculture.

Lemon acknowledged that the importance of agriculture to the economy makes it challenging for the government to provide a special exemption for cattle producers.

“Had we been a very small piece of the pie, the options available to the province would be certainly, I’m sure, a lot different,” said Lemon.

“If we don’t get that exemption, there is going to be a piling on where we will be paying the carbon on all of our inputs, we will be paying the carbon on all of our production and we will be stuck in the middle with no ability to actually pass any of those costs on.”

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