New clean fuel standard proposals worry growers

Canadian farmers say Ottawa’s clean fuel standard should not burden those who grow the feedstock for biofuels.

Grain Farmers of Ontario last week said they had deep concerns about current proposals from Environment Canada because they contain land-use restrictions.

For example, a discussion document proposes buffer zones around riparian areas.

On Twitter, farmers across Canada expressed similar concerns saying they should not have to bear more costs to lower greenhouse gas emissions because they are already paying a carbon tax.

The CFS framework, which intends to reward low-carbon feedstock, has been in the works since 2017, but regulations are expected to appear this fall. There would then be a period for stakeholder reaction.

GFO said in a news release that it opposes criteria for land use and wants transparency around carbon numbers and any certification processes that the new regulation would require.

The organization said farmers already practice sustainability measures.

Canola Council of Canada vice-president of public affairs Brian Innes said the standard must enable more biofuel use in Canada but it has to be done right.

While the council is excited about the prospect of diversifying through more canola-based biofuel, he said worry has formed around the discussion papers.

“The concern is because some of the proposals would add costs and complications for Canadian feedstock to be used for biofuel in Canada,” Innes said. “It would burden Canadian farmers producing canola, soybeans, corn and wheat used for biofuels.

“The details really matter.”

Aside from the riparian buffer zone the proposal includes not being able to grow feedstock on land that was forest or a sensitive area. There is also talk of third-party certification.

Innes said the canola industry as a whole has expressed concern to officials in Environment Canada, Agriculture Canada and elected members.

The regulations are different than a mandate. Currently, Canada has a two-percent mandate for renewable blended biodiesel.

In contrast, Minnesota, for example, has a five-percent mandate in winter and 20 percent in the summer.

Innes said the standard under development is similar to what California, British Columbia and Europe have.

“It’s not just about the percentage. It’s about how much the fuel lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

That said, if the standard is done correctly, Canada could see blends of renewable fuel in diesel by five percent or more, he said.

It would increase yield and production. Canadian canola growers currently produce about 20 million tonnes and have a goal of 26 million tonnes by 2025.

Haerle said the proposed regulations could damage farmers’ ability to trade freely and could also impact domestic markets.

“Instead of embracing the hard work farmers do to grow crops for the green economy, the proposed clean fuel standard will penalize farmers,” he said.

He suggested farmers might not grow crops for biofuels.

Innes said he understands the frustration but as far as canola is concerned farmers consistently point to its role in their operations’ profitability so growing fewer acres is unlikely.

“What we have seen develop so far in the biofuels market in the U.S., in Europe, even in places like British Columbia is that when clean fuel standards are developed right, they drive demand for canola oil, and that’s a good thing for farmers,” he said.

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