National Newswatch

Opposition parties supported motion by Ben Lobb.

 

Ottawa—A bill to remove the federal carbon tax on natural gas and propane used in grain drying and other farm purposes is off to the Commons agriculture committee for detailed study following its approval in the Commons.

The bill from Ben Lobb, Conservative MP for Huron-Bruce, passed 170 to 143 with the support of the other opposition parties. A similar bill from Conservative MP Phil Lawrence from Northumberland-Peterborough South, was part way through Senate approval in the last Parliament when the 2021 election was called.

Grain Farmers of Ontario supports Lobb’s bill because farmers do not set their own prices, and have been burdened with volatile costs, inclement weather, outdated cost-shared federal risk support programs, and rising operational costs and farm debt.

GFO Chair Brendan Byrne said, “Farming is the riskiest of businesses. There are so many variables out of a farmer’s control and we are looking at the need to grow more food on less land – and there are fewer farmers every day. The uphill battle we fight daily to grow food is magnified and multiplied by our own government through the carbon tax in its current form.

“GFO has calculated the carbon tax will cost an average farm an additional $46 per acre in direct drying costs by 2030. On an average 800-acre farm, that‘s an increased cost of operations of $36,800,” he said.

During debate on the bill, Julie Dabrusin, parliamentary secretary for the environment, said farmers are receiving final assistance to increase production “while addressing climate change that threatens production.” Lobb’s bill would take agriculture in a very different direction and could even see farmers be doubly compensated and not encouraged for look for less polluting fuel sources.

Dave Epp, Conservative MP for Chatham-Kent—Leamington, said grain dryers are essential in Ontario and in eastern Canada. “There simply are not commercially viable, scalable alternatives to using natural gas and propane available today, but because there are not viable alternatives, the demand for fuel tends to remain unaffected by price. That makes these additional fuel charges simply an additional tax and an inefficient policy to lower carbon emissions.”

The recent federal budget “did put some more funds into the agricultural clean technology fund to upgrade present drying systems to a higher efficiency, but these funds only have the potential to update 500 of the 50,000 grain dryers across Canada.”

The Liberals view the use of the carbon tax as a “price signal to the farm community to change their ways even though there are no viable alternatives.”

Lobb said farmers have been adopting best practices to reduce their emissions. “We need to cut this unnecessary tax on farmers’ natural gas and propane to dry their grains and heat their livestock barns.

“We do not want farmers to walk away from their livestock barns because they can no longer afford to heat them. We want them to be able to keep those barns warm to keep the chicks warm when they are first moved into the barn, or keep the hog barns warm when the weaners are at a very young age and very small.”

Lobb said he looked forward to agriculture committee hearings on the bill. “Let us have some farmers come and explain the pain they are feeling right now and the relief Parliament can provide them.”

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