Pressure continues to build on the federal government to remove the carbon tax on grain drying.
The issue has been building on Parliament Hill and haunts federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau as she visits farm events across the country.
“I definitely recognize that 2019 has been a very, very difficult year because of the weather, but also because of trade disruption and now train disruptions as well,” said Bibeau to reporters after addressing CropConnect in Winnipeg.
In her address, she mentioned the grain drying issue, but made no promises or commitments about carbon tax relief.
“I still have some work to do to see how we can proceed,” said Bibeau.
While she examines the issue and speaks with cabinet colleagues about farmers’ complaints, she will continue to be hounded by organizations like Grain Growers of Canada, which replied to her Feb. 12 appearance with a reiteration of its demand for a “full exemption for fuel used on Canadian farms from the carbon tax.”
That was a point GGC executive director Erin Gowriluk made just down the hall from Bibeau, who was touring CropConnect, in comments to Manitoba Corn Growers.
“Until you have an alternative, like a solar-powered grain dryer, I think it’s important that policymakers recognize that you don’t have an alternative to natural gas and propane,” said Gowriluk.
“Adding a carbon tax to an activity like grain drying is not something that is going to encourage any change in behaviour.”
Across Canada this winter, farmers have complained about the seeming unfairness of being hit with carbon taxes on drying grain that had to be brought in damp because of appalling harvesting conditions.
Many farm organizations have pushed the federal government to offer relief, but it has made no promises yet. Bibeau has been studying the issue, and has asked for farmer data about what the costs of grain drying are this winter. She has received much data over the winter and said she is considering it.
However, in an interview with The Western Producer, she was careful to note that farm groups are asking for all farm fuel use to be exempted.
And she said she wanted to ensure that government measures are well-designed to have a productive impact.
“We have to be careful in the way that we want to support the farmers so that it’s sustainable,” she said.
“I have to find the right balance.”
Gowriluk said GGC has been using the current situation of farmers’ damp grain and drying costs to draw attention to the impact of the carbon tax on farming.
“We have been able to leverage this opportunity to say, ‘look, there are some really significant challenges that Canadian farmers (are facing due to the carbon tax and low margins),’ ’’ said Gowriluk.
So far all the English Canadian political parties outside government have supported finding relief for farmers.
The Green party has supported a rebate of 2019 grain drying costs.
The Conservative party wants all farm fuel exempted.
The NDP has also sounded sympathetic to finding a way to take cost pressures off farmers facing tight margins and increasingly volatile weather.
“We’re seeing increasing momentum,” said Gowriluk.
“The one group we have yet to hear from, the one party that we have yet to hear from, is the Liberals,” he said.