Farmers say they are being disadvantaged by federal carbon tax, but federal ag minister remains unconvinced
OTTAWA — The Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments continue attempts to convince the federal government that its carbon tax puts farmers at a disadvantage.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau recently suggested the federal carbon tax may not be disadvantaging farmers. She has questioned the impact of the tax on agriculture and has said she will continue to seek more information on how the program affects farms.
“This is the case that I am building right now, to see if, in fact, I do have a case to present in front of the minister of environment and the minister of finance,” she said.
“I cannot go just on feelings. I have to go with a case built on evidence, and this is what I’m building right now, with the collaboration of my provincial colleagues and the collaboration of the industry that is affected.”
Provincial governments confirm Bibeau’s office has requested more information of costs to the agriculture industry associated with the carbon tax.
Asked if seeing high grain drying bills regularly posted to social media is enough evidence for her to advocate for an exemption on such costs, Bibeau said it does not.
“I don’t want to go on feelings, but I’m more than willing to advocate once I have the case in front of me,” she said.
“I just need more evidence to see the impact it’s had on a farm.”
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen said in a statement his government has reached out to the farm community and is “working to pull together some numbers but we know they are substantial. In the meantime, I welcome the federal minister to come visit Manitoba and meet with farmers first hand to hear the impact the carbon tax has had on them.”
Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Merit said in a statement he has raised at every opportunity concerns for relief from escalating grain-drying costs, and information was shared with the federal government near the end of 2019.
“Poor harvest conditions have forced many farmers to dry their grain from the 2019 growing season, and the carbon tax has increased the costs associated with grain drying, causing additional stress on producers. We have heard from producers and industry groups about the impacts associated with the carbon price on grain drying,” said Marit.
“We will continue to work with the federal government to provide any information needed to help them better understand the impact of carbon tax on grain drying to Saskatchewan producers.”
Provincial concerns were echoed by other groups.
Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association for Rural Municipalities, said Bibeau’s comments were noted.
“While I understand her reaction, I can reassure her that our concerns are not just feelings but are based purely on the economics of cash-strapped farmers that are already facing losses of income due to abnormal harvest conditions,” he said.
His group is planning a trip to Ottawa to try and convince Bibeau to ask for exemptions for the tax on grain drying, as well as address another longstanding concern by retroactively changing the reference margin coverage for AgriStability from 70 to 85 percent.
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell said organizations like his have long advocated for competitiveness regarding carbon taxes, noting Americans do not have one.
“For her to say she needs more information, like what else does she need? To me, it’s a matter of principle, and the principles have been set. We have said that this will make us uncompetitive, which it will,” he said, noting there are exemptions for other industries.
Everyone seems to acknowledge that the impact a carbon tax has on a farm will vary from year to year, but organizations like KAP are seeing producers face additional costs of $3 an acre this year.
“There should not be a carbon tax on grain drying and farm production buildings,” said Campbell.