Farm groups put the pressure on Ottawa to act on carbon tax

KAP president Bill Campbell left) with Kelvin Heppner at CropConnect 2020 in Winnipeg.

Farm groups across the country have ramped up pressure on the federal government to address the impact of the federal carbon tax and to recognize agriculture’s positive contributions in capturing greenhouse gases.

Both Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) in Manitoba and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) have released studies quantifying the cost of the federal carbon pricing backstop. Grain Growers of Canada, and its member organizations across the country, launched the “Harvest from Hell” campaign last week, inviting farmers to share information on how much carbon tax they’ve had to pay to dry the 2019 crop. Many of these groups have also sent members to Ottawa in the last few weeks to discuss the situation with MPs and staff.

“It’s really come to light with the challenges we had with the 2019 production year. We’ve seen the carbon tax rear its head,” notes KAP president Bill Campbell, in the interview below, recorded at the CropConnect conference in Winnipeg earlier this month.

Most farm groups, including KAP, are lobbying to have the federal government exempt fuel used for grain drying and for heating farm production buildings, including barns.

“We realize we won’t be competitive if we bear those costs,” says Campbell, noting they also want to see the funds collected from farmers re-invested in agriculture.

“In all other sectors they don’t have the ability to do the things that agriculture can do to provide those benefits. We can be part of the solution to this, but we need to have the ability to have projects and demonstrations that show it,” he says. “When they talk about alternative forms of energy, right now there are no alternative forms energy to propane and natural gas for drying grain.”

There were extensive discussions about carbon pricing and greenhouse gas emissions calculations at KAP’s annual general meeting in early February.

KAP delegates passed a resolution to have the Canadian agriculture sector recognized as net-zero in terms of emissions, with an excess net capture of CO2 equivalent of 33Mt per year. The resolution (see below) also addressed several specific concerns about the federal government’s methodology for measuring carbon emissions and removal in agriculture. Going forward, KAP will monitor agriculture emissions numbers in the annual National Inventory Report (NIR) and “promote the amount of carbon stored in grain, vegetables and meat products by farmers.”

Campbell and other KAP representatives met with federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau during the CropConnect conference. While Bibeau did not divulge much new information while in Winnipeg, Campbell says the cards are in the federal government’s hands when it comes to making a decision on how to move ahead.

“A best case scenario would be something in budget in March or something like that,” he says.

Opposition MPs’ private members’ bills are rarely passed, but the government could exempt fuel used for grain drying and heating barns from the carbon tax by supporting a bill introduced by Conservative MP Philip Lawrence last week.

Listen to KAP president Bill Campbell discuss the impact of the federal carbon tax, steps the federal government needs to take to address the issue, and the challenges that lie ahead in dealing with last fall’s mess this spring:

KAP resolution on agriculture sector GHG emissions balance

(approved at the group’s February 2020 annual general meeting)

Resolved, THAT KAP promote the agriculture sector in Canada (and Manitoba) as net-zero emissions, with an excess net capture of 33Mt CO2e/yr (2017); and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP promote the excess capture of carbon in the agriculture sector as a valuable service that Canadian farmers provide, to offset end user emissions like biofuels (energy sector), and other end user emissions from agriculture products; and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP use sector-based numbers when discussing GHG emissions and capture, rather than lifecycle assessments. The government’s National Inventory Report (NIR) emission numbers are sector-based; comparing these numbers to lifecycle assessments of our products shows incorrect conclusions; and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP use the yearly NIR to communicate with government effectively, using their own numbers, thereby making KAP’s GHG emission lobby supporting the agriculture sector more effective; and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP monitor the NIR agriculture sector emission numbers each year and promote the amount of carbon stored in grain, vegetables and meat products by farmers, in addition to carbon sequestered in Cropland – LULUCF; and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP lobby the Government of Canada, to include Cropland-LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry) in the agriculture sector GHG emissions, rather than omitting it (See: Note 1 Table ES-2 2019 NIR), to reflect the carbon agriculture is sequestering in the soil through good practices, already in practice; and be it further

Resolved, THAT KAP lobby the Government of Canada to reduce GHG emission estimates in the NIR, for the sales of enhanced efficiency fertilizer use in Canada, for which farmers are currently not being credited for in the agriculture sector.

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