One pork farmer said the carbon tax costs him about $80,000 per year alone
By Diego Flammini
Canadian farmers are concerned about how Parliament’s failure to pass an important bill could affect their operations this fall and winter.
Bill C-234, which would provide carbon tax relief on propane and natural gas used for drying grain and heating barns, remains in the committee stage in the senate. The bill is likely to remain there until Parliament resumes in September.
“It’s disappointing that this bill didn’t receive royal assent,” Rick Prejet, chair of Manitoba Pork, told Farms.com. “It makes sense to get this bill passed, especially when you’re talking about a sector that doesn’t have any alternative fuel options for barn heating.”
Not passing this bill translates into thousands of dollars in extra costs for producers like Prejet.
Some calculations estimate the carbon tax alone costs pork farmers upwards of 50 cents per pig.
“When talking about our operation, we’re talking around an extra $80,000 per year just in carbon tax,” he said. “That’s a pretty hefty price tag, and we’ve seen some producers exit the industry completely because they can’t afford the added costs.”
Canada has seen a decrease in the number of pork producers.
The country had 8,402 hog farms in 2016, Statistics Canada data says. That number dropped by 11.7 per cent to 7,423 swine farms in 2021.
The costs associated with the carbon tax also take away from farm innovation.
Renovating a barn or changing a heating system is something Prejet would like to do but paying almost $100,000 per year in carbon tax prevents him from making some of those investments.
“We’ve got some barns that are pushing 30 years old, and we’d like to have some new fan controls and systems that operate more efficiently,” he said. “We’d be looking at spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make these kinds of changes. Having that $80,000 available instead of paying the carbon tax would help us make the investments we feel are necessary.”
In addition to the on-farm challenges, the extra carbon taxes could reduce competitiveness.
Other jurisdictions don’t have the same hurdles Canadian farmers do, potentially making those products more attractive, Prejet said.
“We’re exporters and we’re always competing with the U.S., Brazil and other countries throughout the world,” he said. “Anything that points the finger at us like we’re doing something wrong isn’t going to help the industry. We know we have to do things that are better for the environment, but we also need to remain competitive.”
Grain farmers could feel the carbon tax pinch too.
Drew Spoelstra, vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, raises dairy cows and cash crops in Binbrook, Ont.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much the carbon tax could contribute to grain drying bills. But the amount is going up, he said.
“It varies from year to year because corn and soybeans don’t come off at the same moisture every year, but we are finding that we’re paying more and more for our natural gas,” he told Farms.com.
An AAFC study from 2019 on the cost of the carbon tax on grain drying estimates the carbon tax cost $5.50 per acre of corn in Ontario.
Adjusted for inflation, that number is now $6.34 per acre.
Statistics Canada’s Principal Field Crops report in June 2023 reported Ontario growers planted 2.3 million acres of corn this year.
This means Ontario’s corn growers could pay more than $14.5 million in carbon taxes related to grain drying.
Like Prejet, Spoelstra says more money paid in tax means fewer dollars spent on improving his operation.
“Farmers are some of the most innovative people out there, but when we’re spending the kind of money we are in taxes, that prevents us from innovating what’s happening on farm.”
Spoelstra spoke to Farms.com from Fredericton, N.B., where Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau will join her provincial and territorial ag ministers for days of meetings.
Spoelstra and other OFA reps will participate in roundtable discussions and will bring up the issue of Bill C-234, he said.