(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

Heather Smart poses with her certificate as the first women in a decade to earn this credential in the Kootenays. (Photo submitted)
Local shift boss blazing the way for women

Heather Smart is the first women in the Kootenays in ten years to receive this certification

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

A pair of Okanagan Regional Library reference librarians have created a podcast called Hard Cover that takes a zany but informative look at books, libraries and librarians. (File photo)
Okanagan reference librarians produce quirky podcast

Davin Helkenberg and Peter Critchley are behind Hard Cover

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Crown prosecutors have stayed attempted murder charges against Kelowna’s Jesse Pez. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Man accused in Kelowna Halloween stabbing has attempted murder charge stayed

The Crown only proceeds with charges when evidence provides ‘a substantial likelihood of conviction’

RCMP released this photo on Jan. 27, 2021 of Terrance Jones, 40, a Caucasian man with a closely shaved head, brown eyes, dirty blonde or brown hair, and a thin mustache and beard. The inside of his right arm is covered in tattoos, including one of a face. (Kamloops RCMP photo)
RCMP want public’s help to locate Shuswap man wanted on charge of attempted murder

Sicamous man was arrested previously on Jan. 11 for allegedly breaching conditions of release

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

Most Read