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Prairie provinces react to Bibeau’s questions on carbon price impact

Farmers say they're being disadvantaged by carbon taxes but Bibeau remains unconvinced

grain dryer
A GSI grain drying system at Bashaw, Alta. (Grainews photo courtesy Western General)

Ottawa — The Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments continue attempts to convince the federal government’s carbon pricing program puts farmers at a disadvantage.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau recently suggested the carbon pricing system may not be disadvantaging farmers, questioning the impact of carbon pricing on agriculture, but saying she will continue to seek out more information on the program’s effects on farms.

“This is the case that I am building right now, to see if, in fact, I do have a case to present in front of the minister of environment and the minister of finance,” she said. “I cannot go just on feelings, I have to go with a case built on evidence and this is what I’m building right now, with the collaboration of my provincial colleagues and the collaboration of the industry that is affected.”

Provincial governments confirm Bibeau’s office has requested more information on costs to the agriculture industry associated with carbon pricing.

Asked if seeing high grain drying bills regularly posted to social media is enough evidence for her to advocate for an exemption on such costs, Bibeau said not.

“I don’t want to go on feelings, but I’m more than willing to advocate once I have the case in front of me,” she said. “I just need more evidence to see the impact it’s had on a farm.”

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen said in a statement his government has reached out to the farm community and “are working to pull together some numbers but we know they are substantial.”

“In the meantime, I welcome the federal minister to come visit Manitoba and meet with farmers first hand to hear the impact the carbon tax has had on them,” he said.

Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister David Marit said in a statement that he has raised at every opportunity concerns for relief on escalating grain-drying costs and information was shared with the federal government near the end of 2019.

“Poor harvest conditions have forced many farmers to dry their grain from the 2019 growing season and the carbon tax has increased the costs associated with grain drying, causing additional stress on producers.  We have heard from producers and industry groups about the impacts associated with the carbon price on grain drying,” said Marit.

“We will continue to work with the federal government to provide any information needed to help them better understand the impact of carbon tax on grain drying to Saskatchewan producers.”

Provincial concerns were echoed by other groups.

Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association for Rural Municipalities (SARM), said Bibeau’s comments were noted.

“While I understand her reaction, I can reassure her that our concerns are not just feelings but are based purely on the economics of cash-strapped farmers that are already facing losses of income due to abnormal harvest conditions,” he said.

His group is planning a trip to Ottawa to try and convince Bibeau to ask for exemptions for tax on grain drying — and to address another longstanding gripe by retroactively changing the reference margin coverage for AgriStability from 70 to 85 per cent.

Manitoba-based Keystone Agriculture Producers (KAP) president Bill Campbell said organizations such as his have long advocated for competitiveness regarding carbon taxes, noting U.S. do not have one.

“For her to say she needs more information, like what else does she need? To me, it’s a matter of principle and the principles have been set. We have said that this will make us uncompetitive, which it will,” he said, noting there are exemptions for other industries.

Everyone seems to acknowledge the impact a carbon price has on a farm will vary from year to year, but organizations like KAP are seeing producers additional costs of $3 an acre this year.

“There should not be a carbon tax on grain drying and farm production buildings,” said Campbell.

— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.

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