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Bill to exempt farm fuels from the carbon tax passes second reading

If passed, the bill would, in part, exempt natural gas and propane used by farmers for grain drying from the carbon tax. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

A private member’s bill to exempt all farm fuels from the federal carbon tax passed second reading in the House of Commons.

Bill C-206, introduced by Conservative Philip Lawrence, would also exempt natural gas and propane used for grain drying from the carbon tax.

Read more: Canada owes $200M across 3 provinces after underestimating carbon tax revenue

The bill was supported by the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP and the Green Party.

“The support of the NDP and Bloc shows that whether you agree with the carbon tax or not, this is a necessary change to support the livelihoods of Canadian farmers,” Lawrence said Wednesday in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the failure of the Liberals to support this critical legislation proves again that they are more interested in playing partisan games than helping farmers across Canada.”

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In a statement, the Liberal government said it remains committed to helping farmers fight climate change, but said this bill provides them no relief.

“Bill C-206 does not provide relief for the fuel costs of grain drying, as it does not add grain drying as an eligible farming activity,” said a joint statement from Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal minister of agriculture, and Jonathan Wilkinson, the minister of environment and climate change.

“We are committed to new rebates for on-farm fuel use such as grain drying, in order to both support our food producers and also encourage new investments in sustainable technologies, that go beyond existing exemptions for farm fuels and rebates for greenhouses.”

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, which supports the bill, said the carbon tax creates expenses that cannot be passed on to consumers.

“Our members have been very concerned about the impact of the federal carbon pricing system on unavoidable energy inputs like fuel to dry grain or heat livestock facilities,” APAS president Todd Lewis said in a statement.

“We have been calling for the federal government to recognize these impacts and provide relief through exemptions, or rebates at the very least.”

Read more: Federal carbon tax system could hit Saskatchewan farmers hard — APAS

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Lawrence said the carbon tax creates an unfair burden on farmers, who he said are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, global trade wars and weather uncertainty.

“Today is a win for Canada’s agriculture workers,” Lawrence said.

“Conservatives will always advocate for farmers and will continue to propose common-sense policies that will make life more affordable in our world-class agriculture sector.”

Bibeau and Wilkinson said farmers’ concerns will be addressed in the coming months.

“Our government will make grain drying and barn heating a priority focus under the new $165-million agriculture clean technology fund. The program will invest in energy efficiency, fuel switching, and other new technologies on farms,” they said.

The bill now heads to the agriculture committee.

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