Farmers’ carbon tax exemption request needs to be revisited, says Prairie cabinet representative Jim Carr

Minister Jim Carr, Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau with Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister, David Marit on March 29, 2019. (Jessika Guse/RealAgriculture)

Ottawa’s decision to not expand carbon tax exemptions as called for by farmers and farm groups needs to be revisited, according to the Special Representative for the Prairies in the federal cabinet.

Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr has served as Prime Minister Trudeau’s Prairie representative since 2019, and was promoted back into Cabinet in this position last month after stepping aside for cancer treatment in late 2019.

When asked about exempting fuel used for grain drying on RealAg Radio this week, Minister Carr said “it’s an issue I believe has to be revisited.”

Gasoline and diesel used for farming purposes are exempt from the federal carbon tax, but farm groups have urged the government to extend the exemptions to propane and natural gas used for grain drying and heating barns and greenhouses, as there are no readily available or viable alternatives.

“In those cases where there are inequities, I think we have a responsibility to look at those inequities, and I understand the arguments that are being made, and I’m presenting these arguments to the centre of government, and we’ll see what happens,” said Carr.

Last year, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that the carbon tax on fuel used for grain drying wasn’t a significant enough percentage of operating costs to qualify for an exemption to the “price of pollution.” Bibeau said the agriculture ministry’s analysis showed the cost per grain farm to be between $200 and $900 per farm — amounting to just 0.05 per cent to 0.42 per cent of operating costs.

The government has since announced a plan to raise the carbon tax significantly from $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions this year to $170/tonne in 2030, which Grain Farmers of Ontario says will result in added grain drying costs of around $50 per acre for corn. The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) says it will increase the cost of growing wheat in the province by $12.52 an acre.

“We have a responsibility to look at it, to see where there is real hardship, to assess the impact on their bottom line in real time and in real dollars, to measure the impact of that fiscal measure and to conclude whether or not we believe it’s fair, and if it’s not, to look at ways to mitigate the impact,” said Carr. “It’s my job to make the arguments. Ultimately, others will make the decisions, but I hear loudly and clearly from Prairie producers.”

Related: What does the Special Representative for the Prairies do?