Agriculture groups call for carbon tax exemption, minister ‘listening’ to farmers

Click to play video: 'Western Canadian farmers push back against federal carbon tax'
Western Canadian farmers push back against federal carbon tax
WATCH: Western Canadian farmers push back against federal carbon tax – Feb 5, 2020

A bill in the Senate to exempt natural gas and propane from the carbon tax is getting support from Grain Growers of Canada (GGC).

Sen. Diane Griffin says she introduced Bill S-215 to gather more evidence on how the carbon tax is affecting farmers.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan farmers feeling effect of the carbon tax during wet harvest

“Farmers consistently indicated that they should be treated fairly regardless of the crop they grow or the livestock they raise,” Griffin, who is from Prince Edward Island, said Thursday in a statement.

“My bill is complementary to a similar bill in the House of Commons. However, a Senate committee is the quickest path in Parliament to collect this evidence and provide the government and parliamentarians with recommendations.”

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Conservative MP Phillip Lawrence introduced a private member’s bill in the House to exempt the carbon tax on gasoline, diesel fuel, propane and natural gas.

GGC supports both bills.

“This past year’s harvest from hell was difficult for grain growers across this country,” GGC chair Jeff Nielsen said in a release.

Nielsen said farmers need immediate relief.

READ MORE: Meili writes to Trudeau, requesting carbon tax exemption for farmers

“It is a very important step forward to see Sen. Griffin and MP Lawrence recognize the urgent need to support Canada’s grain farmers… Farmers need a legislative environment that reflects this new reality.”

The federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said she recognizes 2019 was a very hard harvest and is looking at ways to support farmers.

“I was just in Winnipeg meeting with farmers and members of the grain sector,” Bibeau said Friday in a statement to Global News.

“We are listening to farmers and working along with my colleagues on sustainable ways to support them in the short term.”

Bibeau has called on the agriculture industry to provide evidence of the impact the carbon tax is having on the sector.

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Both the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said they have sent the minister information showing the impact on the agriculture industry.

APAS estimates farmers will lose between $8,000 and $10,000 in net income in 2020 due to the carbon tax, rising to between $13,000 and $17,000 by 2022.

READ MORE: Farm income to fall by up to 12% due to the carbon tax — APAS

A new report out Friday from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) paints an even more dire picture on the farmers’ bottom line.

CFIB said farmers estimate they will pay an average of almost $14,000 in carbon taxes, and 82 per cent said the measure is having a negative effect on them.

Click to play video: '‘Harvest from hell’: Alberta farmers demanding action from government'
‘Harvest from hell’: Alberta farmers demanding action from government

“CFIB has been hearing from farmers about how the mounting costs of the federal carbon tax are taking a real bite out of their bottom line,” Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB vice-president, Western Canada and agri-business, said in a release.

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“Given the challenging harvest last year, ongoing trade disputes, and the threat of a prolonged rail disruption, we urge [Bibeau] to address farmers’ serious concerns about the carbon tax which is hurting the overall competitiveness of the agriculture sector.”

READ MORE: Manitoba premier says grain-drying would be exempt from a Manitoba carbon tax

Bibeau said a $2-million grain-drying program in Alberta is one way her department is helping the sector and will continue to work with the province on pollution pricing plans and targeted programs.

“I recognize that Canadian farmers care about the environment and are helping fight climate change with better practices and technologies,” Bibeau said.

“Under the federal pollution pricing plan, we have exempted farm fuels and made many special provisions for farmers.”

Braun-Pollon said the carbon tax punishes farmers, making them less profitable and competitive.

“We urge the federal government to use this new data and act on the recommendations to expand these much-needed exemptions for the agriculture sector,” Braun-Pollon said.

Bibeau said her department will continue working on the best ways to support farmers.

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