Agriculture Committee discusses possible exemption from carbon pricing for certain agricultural activities

A private member’s bill that would exempt certain agricultural activities from the federal carbon price is being discussed by lawmakers.

Ontario Conservative MP Ben Lobb first introduced Bill C-234 in February. It is based on an earlier bill sponsored by a fellow Conservative who died on the order paper when the federal election was called. Lobb’s bill would change the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act add propane and natural gas used to dry grain and heat barns to the list of agricultural fuels (gasoline and diesel) already exempt from the federal carbon tax.

The bill passed second reading with support from the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party in May.

It came up for the third time at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food this week. Representatives from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Grain Growers of Canada, Agri-Food Innovation Council and the David Suzuki Foundation testified before MPs.

“We think the money would be better in the hands of farmers to innovate more on their farm and try to find ways and solutions to improve their carbon footprint,” said Brendan Byrne, president of Grain Farmers of Ontario. Committee. He stressed the importance of grain drying — “if we’re wrong, we don’t have a crop to sell,” Byrne said.

“Eight years from now, over $2.7 billion would be paid by Ontario grain farmers…in the carbon price on grain drying,” he said, referring to estimates made by his organization. “All this money comes out of our pockets. Farmers can’t pass this on to someone else, they just have to pay for it and bear the brunt of it… The rebate that’s in place right now just doesn’t cover the costs.

He said the bill would give farmers time to find workable solutions.

“What we’ve heard is that there is no commercially viable alternative to using grain dryers that run on propane or natural gas,” the NDP spokesperson said. of Agriculture, Alistair MacGregor. Canadian National Observer in an interview on October 4. For this reason, the carbon price does not incentivize farmers to switch technology because there is nothing to switch to, he said.

Witnesses at the previous meeting expressed concern that a full exemption will remove incentives to develop new technologies and alternatives. To address this issue, MacGregor said he would likely amend the bill to include a sunset clause so that “this exemption does not last in perpetuity.”

Such a clause would give farmers a break in the interim and “possibly an eight or ten year window for the technology to catch up,” he said.

A private member’s bill that would exempt propane and natural gas used for certain agricultural activities from the federal carbon price is currently before MPs. #cdnpoli #BillC234 #agriculture #GrainDrying

“I’m not opposed to a sunset clause, but I would like to see the wording and language of that clause, particularly on the timing, how long until the sunset clause kicks in, and I want to m ensure that it is realistic, [and] provides a realistic timeline for these new technologies to become scalable and commercially available to growers,” said committee vice-chairman John Barlow. Canadian National Observer. “

Barlow added that he would like to discuss a proposed sunset clause with Lobb, who sponsored the bill, as well as the Conservative caucus.

In an email, Lobb said Canadian National Observer he “would be open to the idea of ​​a sunset clause” of five, seven or 10 years.

At the previous meeting, witnesses from Équiterre, the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Agriculture Carbon Alliance, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Producteurs de grains du Québec testified.

On October 3, NFU Representative Glenn Wright recommended that the bill be amended to include a sunset clause.

Wright told committee members that the decision to exempt propane and natural gas from the pollution price came after the 2019 “harvest hell” on the Prairies, when a difficult and wet grain harvest forced farmers to use “much more energy than expected”. A lot has changed since then, he says. Last December, the federal government introduced a tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to agricultural businesses in provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) that use the federal fuel pollution pricing system. carbon because they don’t have their own system in place.

“The problem with Bill C-234 is that a full exemption does nothing to encourage clean technology and low-emission alternatives,” Wright said on behalf of the National Farmers Union. The aforementioned tax credit means the current setup “now strikes a better balance as it retains the pollution pricing signal without threatening food production,” he added.

Équiterre climate policy analyst Émile Boisseau-Bouvier echoed the NFU’s concerns, pointing to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s clean agriculture technology program, which provides $50 million to help farmers buy more efficient grain dryers and replacing hydrocarbons.

“We agree to help farmers, but we cannot agree to systematize the erosion of carbon pricing mechanisms,” Boisseau-Bouvier told the committee.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer

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