Man. gov’t takes heat over grain drying file

Opposition and general farm group says the government should have worked with farmers to prepare carbon tax case

Last winter, Keystone Agricultural Producers was expecting to work with the Manitoba government to gather data about the carbon tax and its impact on the cost of grain drying.

That never happened.

“We did have communications with the department of agriculture and reached out to them to work collaboratively,” said KAP president Bill Campbell.

“We offered that helping hand and never heard anything, since, from them.”

Manitoba’s NDP is accusing the governing Progressive Conservatives of failing to stand up for farmers because the government never surveyed producers about the carbon tax and grain drying.

“Manitoba farmers, who are already struggling to keep up after flooding and high rain levels, are facing thousands of dollars of extra costs (from grain drying),” NDP leader Wab Kinew said July 21. “It’s disappointing the province missed an opportunity to get Manitoba farmers an exemption (from the carbon tax) because they just failed to do the work.”

The province did make the case for grain producers, but unfortunately the result was not positive, said Blaine Pedersen, Manitoba’s agriculture minister, in an email.

“We are disappointed the federal government does not plan to provide an exception for grain drying. This is something I lobbied for along with my colleagues in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Our government will continue to stand up for Manitoba farmers and help ensure they remain competitive in a world market.”

Grain drying and the carbon tax became a contentious issue in the fall of 2019 when a wet and late harvest forced thousands of producers to dry their grain. The $20 per tonne carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions increased the price of fuel, including the natural gas and propane used for grain dryers. Farmers told the federal government multiple times over the winter that the carbon tax added thousands of dollars to their grain drying bills. Producers also explained that drying grain is a necessity for corn growers and is sometimes needed for other crops when harvest conditions are wet.

Agriculture Canada, in a summary document, said it received grain drying and carbon tax estimates from Alberta Agriculture and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and a letter from Manitoba Agriculture.

After reviewing the submissions and looking at its own calculations, the federal department concluded the carbon tax added $210 to $774 per year to a farmer’s grain drying bill.

In June, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the additional cost was insignificant and grain drying would not be exempt from the carbon tax.

The Manitoba NDP argues that the outcome might have been different if the provincial agriculture department had collected information on the cost of the tax.

Campbell said it was a missed opportunity for the province and KAP to present a united front.

“It would have helped solidify the case of the cost of the carbon tax on grain drying and heating (of) livestock barns,” he said.

The Manitoba government is making an exemption for grain drying in its carbon tax plan.

In March, Premier Brian Pallister announced a provincial carbon levy of $25 per tonne. It is a flat tax, meaning it won’t rise in the future.

The federal government hasn’t approved the plan, so there is still a federal carbon tax on fuel and other forms of energy in Manitoba.

Campbell hopes the two levels of government can sort out their differences so that producers know what to expect for grain drying and other aspects of the carbon tax.

“It’s time that this is dealt with and (they) come to some type of satisfactory (conclusion).”

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