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Federal ag minister still considering additional measures to reduce carbon tax burden

By: Kelvin Heppner

February 13, 2020

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The federal agriculture minister isn’t ruling out the introduction of additional measures aimed at softening the financial impact of the federal carbon tax on farmers across the country.

Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has repeatedly said she’s looking for more data outlining how the carbon tax is affecting farm profitability. Depending on those numbers, she told reporters at CropConnect at Winnipeg on Wednesday the government is considering implementing carbon tax exemptions or crediting producers for carbon that is removed from the atmosphere on farms.

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“All of the above, I would say,” she said, when asked about possible scenarios that would see the government reduce the carbon tax burden on agriculture.

“There are many ways how we can support producers, and I want to be sure that it’s going to be something sustainable and continue to bring us in the right direction,” said Bibeau, referring to the government’s target of zero emissions by 2050.

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“I’m working with my colleagues, including the Minister of Environment, to find the best ways to support our farmers. I still have some work to do to see how we can proceed,” she noted.

Bibeau also referred to Alberta’s new program for upgrading grain dryers as an example of support for farmers coping with grain drying costs. With federal/provincial funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), the $2 million program will provide Alberta farmers with up to 50 percent of the funds needed for upgrades that improve energy efficiency.

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“This initiative will have to come from the province first. This is the way CAP funds work,” she said. “Obviously when it goes toward lowering our emissions and making sure our agriculture is more sustainable…we’re very open to support the province in this direction.”

Meanwhile, the minister said her quest for additional information on the impact of the carbon tax is not a tactic for avoiding having to address the issue, but rather she doesn’t want to rush the decision process.

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“I already had data from the department last fall or earlier this winter, but I think it was important for the industry and the provinces to get into this data as well to appreciate what was the impact of the price on pollution. If we look at direct and indirect costs it’s very different. It will help us to make a better decision,” said Bibeau. “We don’t want to just be quickly responsive, but we want to make sure we choose the good mechanism.”

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) published a report last week that showed the carbon tax reducing net income of a Saskatchewan grain farm by 8 percent this year, and 12 percent in 2022 when the tax reaches $50/tonne. Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) in Manitoba has also been asking its members to submit receipts showing the amount of carbon tax they’ve paid. KAP says Manitoba farmers paid $1.7 million in carbon taxes for drying the 2019 corn crop alone.

Carbon pricing was one of the topics discussed in a meeting between Bibeau and KAP leaders at CropConnect in Winnipeg on Wednesday.