The Canadian Senate agriculture committee recommends the federal government give farmers more carbon tax exemptions.
In its report, Feast or Famine: Impacts of climate change and carbon pricing on agriculture, agri-food and forestry, the committee said the agriculture and forestry sectors must be protected from rising costs due to carbon pricing.
The report comes after months of hearing from witnesses and a trip by committee members to several operations, including in Alberta. It includes 16 recommendations that the committee said balances environmental protection and economic protection.
Among them are calls to exempt propane and natural gas used for farming and the fuel costs to heat and cool equipment used in farming. Another recommends incentives for beneficial management practices, and another asks for offset protocols so producers can receive carbon credits.
Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett said the recommendations are welcome.
“Instead of focusing entirely on the carbon tax and its potential ramifications, it looks forward to solutions and investments that work toward an actual reduction in carbon emissions,” he said.
The report recognizes the innovations farmers have made for years to sequester carbon and reduce carbon footprints, he said.
“Investing in further research and implementation of technologies can take Canada a step further in the fight against climate change,” he said. “Methane digesters could turn the emissions from animal waste into power instead of releasing them into the atmosphere. Research into more efficient feed technologies can cut down on inputs while simultaneously reducing methane emissions from farm animals. There is huge room to turn Canadian agriculture and rural Canada into a carbon sink.”
Chair Diane Griffin said carbon pricing might be a good idea to meet targets, but the committee is concerned about higher costs for producers.
“If they can’t be profitable they may have to close, thus threatening sectors that employ millions of Canadians and generate billions of dollars in economic activity,” she said.
Griffin noted the efforts agriculture has already made to reduce carbon use and store carbon.
“Depending on the price placed on carbon, one witness estimated that this trapped carbon has a value of about $1 billion,” she said.
Senator Terry Mercer also said the government must “undertake or support research to establish base line levels of soil organic carbon to support the development of offset protocols.”
Griffin said there is reason for optimism if producers continue to be innovative and government funds research to find even more sustainable practices.
Bonnett said addressing competitiveness is key for farmers and he called the report a good first step.