Senators will vote on Nov. 7
By Diego Flammini
Another ag industry group is urging Canadian senators to vote against an amendment that would remove carbon tax exemptions for barn and greenhouse heating and cooling.
Senators will vote at 5:30pm E.T. on Nov. 7 whether to accept or reject the change to Bill C-234 made during an ag committee meeting.
If they vote against it, the bill continues through the Senate in its original form, with carbon tax exemptions for fuels like propane and natural gas used to heat and cool barns and greenhouses.
The bill could then be debated and voted upon by all senators.
Should senators accept the change, however, C-234 must go back to the House of Commons to receive approval from MPs, effectively killing the bill.
Canadian Pork Council Chair and Quebec farmer René Roy believes the bill needs to pass as originally intended.
The legislation ensures fairness across the ag sector, he said.
“There’s no reason why one part of the industry receives an exemption while another part doesn’t,” he told Farms.com. “Removing the exemption for barns and greenhouses creates division within the industry through no fault of our own.”
The bill will also help farms survive, he said.
The carbon tax adds about $2 in production costs per pig in 2023, Roy estimates.
As of July 1, of this year, Canada’s hog inventory sat at 13,775,000, Statistics Canada data shows.
Using those figures, this means Canadian hog farmers are paying more than $27 million in carbon taxes.
That’s money farmers need to invest in their operations, or they face tough decisions, Roy said.
“Our margins are already razor thin and this $2 per pig creates a negative margin,” he said. “This exemption can be the difference between making it through a crisis or not. The reality is we’ve already seen some producers who have given up and that will continue to happen.”
Canada lost almost 12 per cent of its hog farmers during a five-year period.
In 2016, Canada had 8,402 swine farms. That number dropped to 7,423 in 2021, Stats Canada data shows.
Why Canada lost those farms is unclear, but the carbon tax likely played some role, Roy said.
“We are farmers, and we love what we do, but we are also business owners,” he said. “If you’re always spending more money in carbon taxes than you’re making, that’s going to catch up with you at some point and you’re going to have to make difficult decisions about what’s best.”
Canadian senators who support Bill C-234 in its original form hope their colleagues will do the same.
“Colleagues, by voting for the report, you’re allowing this amendment to pass, which will cost farmers, ranchers and growers a billion dollars that would or could otherwise be invested in the sustainability and efficiency of their operations, in expansion and in hiring more people — all the things we wish for in any business,” Senator David Wells, who sponsored the bill in the Senate after it passed third reading in the House of Commons, said on Oct. 31.
“Colleagues, we often hear in this chamber that our job is to make bills better. That is our job. If this report passes and the bill is amended, we’ll have failed in our commitment to do just that. Killing it by process does not make this bill better.”
Since sponsoring C-234, Senator Wells has visited farmers across the country.
Including an Alberta poultry farmer who explained the importance of a warm barn for his flock.
“They talked to me about the necessity of having a constant temperature in their chicken barns to prevent the chickens from dying,” Senator Wells told Farms.com after his Oct. 31 remarks in the Senate. “The best way for them to do that is through fuels like propane or natural gas. That farmer also said that once the carbon tax hits $170 per tonne, they’ll be spending $500,000 per year on carbon tax with no benefit to his farm.”
Multiple industry groups want senators to reject the amendment.
This includes Grain Farmers of Ontario, Alberta Grains, the Agriculture Carbon Alliance and others.
Seeing almost unanimous industry support for the original version of Bill C-234 is an indication of what senators need to do, Wells said.
“The groundswell of support I’ve seen is not something I expected,” he said. “I sponsored the bill because it’s a good bill and it makes sense. It’s quite amazing to see folks from every corner of the ag sector support this bill and I’m hoping my colleagues will take that into consideration, because this bill will help all farmers and food producers.”