(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Farmers contest minister’s claim that grain-farmers’ carbon costs are tiny

The carbon tax is being rebated 100 per cent to households and through the Climate Action Incentive Fund

Grain farmers are adamant that Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau was wrong when she said this week grain farmers were, at most, paying $819 a year in carbon tax to dry their products, so they don’t need a break on the federal carbon tax.

“The estimates range from $210 to $819 per farm and 0.05 per cent to 0.42 per cent of total farm operating expenses,” Bibeau said in a news conference Tuesday.

Markus Haerle, chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, says the carbon-tax bill for drying corn from his 800-hectare farm in St. Isidore, Ont., was $8,500 last fall, and that he is not alone.

Late Friday, Bibeau’s spokesperson said the figures Bibeau gave were averages that vary by province, and particular farmers might pay much more.

Ontario farmers, along with grain-growers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are asking Bibeau to reconsider her determination not to exempt grain-drying from the carbon tax.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Haerle.

Ottawa does exempt fuel used to run farm vehicles, and partially exempt fuel to heat commercial greenhouses, mainly because of competitive pressures with American farmers who don’t pay the carbon tax, plus a lack of greener alternatives.

Ottawa’s carbon tax, which started at $20 per tonne of greenhouse-gas emissions produced and is rising $10 each year until it hits $50 in 2022, is applied in provinces without their own equivalent prices. Right now it applies at $30 a tonne in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

At $20 a tonne, the price adds about 3.9 cents to a cubic metre of natural gas and 3.1 cents to a litre of propane, the two fuels used to run grain dryers.

After a wet, late spring and an early, snowy fall, farmers last year were turning to grain-dryers more than usual and upped their lobbying efforts to get grain-drying exempted from the carbon tax as well. Bibeau asked provincial governments and farm groups to submit their costs and then analyzed those submissions.

It took Bibeau’s office four days to release the specific data that went into its calculations.

The Alberta government estimated the cost in that province to be 16 cents an acre on average for all grains and oilseeds. The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said it was about 51 cents an acre to dry wheat. Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba said it was $3 an acre for corn, based on a survey of its members.

And the Grain Farmers of Ontario estimated $5.50 an acre for corn and about $2.18 for all grains.

Bibeau’s department then took the numbers provided by the farmers and did its own analysis, adjusting the submitted figures so they could be compared directly to each other.

That included tossing out Keystone’s $3 estimate altogether, because it only applied to corn, which made up just five per cent of all Manitoba farms, and using Saskatchewan’s 51 cents for Manitoba instead. As well, they applied that 51 cents to all grains in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, not just wheat.

With those numbers, and using the total number of grain and oilseed farms, and their size, Bibeau’s officials concluded Alberta farmers were paying on average $210 a year in carbon tax to dry grain, $723 in Manitoba, $774 in Saskatchewan, and $819 in Ontario. The analysis notes smaller farms would pay less and larger farms would pay more.

Todd Lewis, chair of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said the numbers don’t make sense to him, with some of his farmers spending upwards of $10,000 in carbon tax on grain drying.

Haerle said he thinks the government must have taken the total costs and divided them by the total number of grain farms, rather than just those that have grain dryers on their own properties. The charts provided to The Canadian Press Friday night appear to confirm Haerle’s belief.

Haerle said some farms have their grain dried at the elevator, and not all of the elevators raised their prices to reflect the cost of the carbon tax, which he said makes the government’s method of taking the total cost and dividing it by all grain farms a poor reflection of what farmers are actually paying.

Plus, said Haerle, it costs more to dry corn than other grains, and for his personal experience, in 2019 he only used dryers on corn, which means the government’s analysis would vastly underestimate how much it cost a farm like his.

Haerle also said unlike most businesses, farmers don’t set the prices they get for their products, so they can’t raise their prices to pass on the cost to consumers.

Lewis said there are ways to make grain dryers more efficient but they are very expensive up-front and the tax is so much it is going to mean farmers don’t have the money to invest in upgrades.

Bibeau said in a statement the government is willing to work with provincial governments and farmers on that, pointing to the recent $2-million joint program with Alberta to cover up to half the costs of making dryers more efficient.

“We are always open to working with our provincial counterparts on cost-shared Canadian Agricultural Partnership programming, such as this,” Bibeau said.

She also said the carbon tax is being rebated 100 per cent to households and through the Climate Action Incentive Fund, which helps businesses, including farmers, improve their energy efficiency.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is shown during a news conference in Ottawa in 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Isolating provinces is a bad idea, says Canadian Chamber of Commerce

National business organization calls for cohesive approach to COVID-19 measures

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Ron MacDonnell leans over the railing on Beacon Wharf Tuesday afternoon. The Town of City is currently looking into the future of the aging structure. It could make way for a concrete pontoon once part of the floating bridge over Hood Canal in Washington State. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney explores public-private partnership for iconic Beacon Wharf

Wharf committee recommends town invite pontoon company to submit proposal

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Homalco First Nation said that it will intervene in the judicial review sought by aquaculture companies with regards to federal decision to phase out 19 Discovery Island fish farms by 2022. In this picture from Sept. 24, a demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver.(Quinn Bender photo)
Chief says push for fish farm judicial review a challenge to reconciliation, Aboriginal Rights

Homalco First Nation chief reacts to Mowi and Cermaq intervention in Discovery Island decision

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Most Read