CRA does not understand how mushroom farms are like greenhouses.
Ottawa—Mushroom growers operate in greenhouses but are not allowed the carbon tax exemption that other fruit and vegetable growers can claim for heating their structures with natural gas or propane, says the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association (CMGA).
The Canada Revenue Agency has been unable to provide real reasons for why the greenhouse exemption does apply to mushroom growers, says Ryan Koeslag, CMGA’s Executive Vice-President and CEO.
Mushroom producers experience some of the same cost factors as greenhouses, and large concentrations of mushroom farms are located right next to the major greenhouse growing regions in Canada, he told the Commons agriculture committee.
“With no alternative fuel sources currently available, our farms are unfairly penalized by the carbon tax,” he said. “The carbon tax is adding additional costs to our farms for uniquely growing food in this country during the Canadian winter.”
CMGA President Mike Medeiros, who operates a mushroom farm near Osgoode in eastern Ontario, said he paid just over $150,000 in carbon tax last year.
“A couple of years ago, when the greenhouse growers received their exemption, which was up to 80 per cent, I reached out to CRA and wondered why the mushroom industry wasn’t included in this as well, considering that when we do our taxes we’re in the same code as that for greenhouse growers.
“Basically, they’re saying that because we don’t have glass roofs with our facilities, we’re not exempt. I know that some of the pot producers don’t use glass roofs—they’re indoors, like we are—and they’re exempt from the carbon tax, so I was disappointed with that. I guess if you’re a hydroponic grower, as a greenhouse as well, you’d be exempt, even though you don’t have a glass roof. I made those points with CRA, and they still wouldn’t accept my thoughts on being exempted for the carbon tax.”
Canada grows over 150,000 tonnes of mushrooms annually, and mushroom farms are a big job creator in Canada, creating over 6,400 jobs with competitive wages. Although robotic technologies are being explored, almost all mushrooms are currently picked by hand, and the sector experiences some of the greatest labour shortages in agriculture.
For 2022, the growers have to face the carbon tax plus on fuels plus increasing heating and inflation costs, “farmers we are expected to absorb all these expenses because we’re price-takers, unable to pass on the cost to the retailer and consumer,” Medeiros said.
“The carbon tax is added directly to our farm inflation costs, not to mention the ongoing precautionary COVID-19 measures. Mushroom farms are extremely efficient and sustainable, with a low carbon and water footprint. We know this through a study conducted in partnership with the Mushroom Council in America, which places mushroom growing as having one of the lowest carbon footprints for food sources.”