CFFO: Federal carbon pricing, farmers looking for relief

By Suzanne Armstrong

Philip Lawrence, Conservative MP for Northumberland Peterborough South, introduced a Private Members Bill C-206 entitled “An Act to Amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (qualifying farm fuel)” on February 18, 2020. The Bill itself is short and simple, barely longer than the title, and asks that the definition of “qualifying farm fuel” allow the exemption to apply to marketable natural gas and propane.

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Diesel and gasoline farm fuels are already exempt, through the use of an exemption certificate, but propane and natural gas are only exempt for greenhouse operators with a proper exemption certificate. After a difficult spring and fall in 2019, with harvests either delayed or coming off too wet, farmers took yet another hit with the tax adding even higher costs to the propane used to dry crops after harvest.

Farmers have been frustrated with Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s unwillingness or inability to budge cabinet on the issue of natural gas and propane for farm use. Arguing that she needed a stronger case to make, she asked farmers to give more data on the impact of carbon pricing for farm businesses. Farm organizations from different regions across the country have responded with studies and data to support the call for reducing costs to farmers.

While the negative economic impact of the tax seems clear, the intention of carbon pricing is ultimately to drive down the use of fossil fuels to reduce negative environmental impacts. However, trying to assess the environmental impact of farms is not always straightforward. It is important to weigh the negative impacts of fossil fuel with the environmental benefits of farming, which lessen the overall impact.

This debate comes in the context of many other challenges for farmers as well, including ongoing trade wars, the rail strikes last fall followed by rail blockades earlier this winter. Global markets continue to suffer from the impact of low oil prices and reduced economic activity from the pandemic health crisis.

In the current context, the government should not be adding to farmers’ burdens, but showing they understand the need for relief for the cost of fuels used for food production.

Private members bills need strong support to be passed. We hope that MPs in all parties will see the value of supporting this Bill as a way to support farmers. Agriculture is an industry vital to our lives, health and prosperity.

The CFFO is writing a letter in support of Bill C-206, and we encourage our members to write their local MPs to encourage them to support the Bill as well.
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Suzanne Armstrong is Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.