Proposed federal carbon tax hikes seen as a threat to farmers have prompted the formation of a national coalition to oppose the carbon plan.
“I think it raised a lot of concerns for how farmers would disproportionately be impacted because of their reliance on fuel and on natural gas to feed Canada and the world,” said Dave Carey, co-chair of the Agriculture Carbon Alliance (ACA).
The coalition, which represents more than 200,000 farm families across Canada, announced its formation on March 1.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson unveiled sweeping new policies Dec. 11, which included raising carbon taxes to $170 per tonne by 2030, up from $30 per tonne.
Carey called it “an existential threat to on-farm competitiveness, both domestic and global.”
A private members bill to exempt farm fuels from carbon taxes recently passed second reading in the House of Commons. Bill C-206 was introduced by Conservative MP Philip Lawrence.
Although farmers have built long-standing relationships with federal departments such as Agriculture Canada, Carey said they fear they aren’t being heard when it comes to climate change policies.
“We need to be front and centre with Environment and Climate Change Canada. We don’t necessarily see farmers as their normal stakeholders.”
He said producers must “work strategically to ensure farm profitability continues, but also that farmers are recognized for their current environmental practices and this is not just another layer of cost and administration put on farmers because, really, they are the original environmentalists.”
Crops such as canola help sequester carbon into the soil, said Carey, who is also the vice-president for government and industry relations for the Canadian Canola Growers Association.
Farmers are also starting to adopt innovations such as precision agriculture, which uses cutting-edge technologies to minimize harm to the environment by reducing over-application of inputs such as fertilizer, he said.
The ACA includes the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Canadian Horticultural Council, Canadian Pork Council, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, and Turkey Farmers of Canada.
The coalition “will work proactively on behalf of Canadian agriculture to advocate for constructive and evidence-based policies regarding carbon pricing, offsets, retrofit funding, and related environmental policies,” said a statement by the ACA.
Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS), which represents more than 20,000 producers across Canada, recently asked the federal government for $300 million to create six national programs to help farmers tackle climate change.
It includes $10 million for pilot programs to transition on-farm energy beyond diesel to clean energy. Carey said he wasn’t familiar enough with the FCS or its proposals to be able to comment.