The change removes barn and greenhouse heating from carbon tax exemptions
By Diego Flammini
Multiple Canadian ag organizations are unhappy with an amendment to a piece of legislation.
“It’s overwhelmingly disappointing,” Jan VanderHout, president of the Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada, told Farms.com. “It came out of left field. We had no idea this was going to happen.”
The disappointment stems from an amendment made to Bill C-234, which, in its original form, provided farmers with carbon tax exemptions on fuels like propane and natural gas used to dry grain and heat barns or greenhouses.
But on Oct. 19 during a Senate ag committee meeting, Quebec Senator Pierre Dalphond introduced a change to remove the heating exemption. Senators from Alberta, B.C., Ontario and New Brunswick supported it too.
Moving forward without the exemption for barn or greenhouse heating does nothing but increase producer and food costs, VanderHout said.
“On a 30-acre greenhouse pepper operation, a farmer pays about $150,000 in carbon taxes in a year,” he said. “In total, our industry will pay about $22 million in carbon taxes this year. And it’s only going to go up as the carbon tax increases.
“The reality is, we can’t just bear these costs. We have to pass them on to our customers, like Metro and Loblaws. Well, they pass those additional costs onto their customers, and that leads to higher food prices.”
A report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer indicates removing the carbon tax on propane and natural gas would save Canadian farmers almost $1 billion through 2030.
This amendment feels like a punishment for farmers using the only resources available to them, VanderHout added.
VanderHout’s organization isn’t the only one to express disappointment with this amendment.
Grain Growers of Canada, the Agriculture Carbon Alliance which represents 15 farm groups, and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) have done the same.
“Why would senators want to make it more expensive for Canadian farmers to produce milk and eggs?” Gage Haubrich, the CTF’s prairie director, said in a statement. “Dalphond needs to withdraw his amendment to hammer barn-heating bills with carbon taxes and get this legislation passed.”
This proposed change also has implications for Canada globally.
Policy that increases the cost of production and food overall makes Canada less competitive as a trading partner, VanderHout said.
“Our competitors don’t have this carbon tax on their cost of production,” he said. “It becomes a trade barrier and puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”
There’s still a chance the bill passes as it originally intended.
If the whole Senate rejects the amendment, Bill C-234 could appear in its original form for its third reading before receiving royal assent.
But if the Senate approves the change, the bill will have to go back to the House of Commons to get support from MPs.
VanderHout isn’t optimistic about how the next vote will turn out.
“We haven’t totally given up hope yet but we probably should,” he said.
Farms.com has contacted Senator Dalphond’s office for comment on his proposed amendment.