National Newswatch

Ottawa-The bill to exempt farmers from the carbon tax on propane and natural gas used in grain dryers and barn heating got a positive opening debate in the Senate.

There will be further debate before it goes to a committee for further study raising questions about whether it will be passed into law before Parliament begins its summer recess June 23.

Newfoundland Senator David Wells is the Senate sponsor for the bill from Ben Lobb, Conservative MP for Huron Bruce.

Wells said the bill aims to correct a critical oversight in government policy. When the carbon tax law was prepared, “it seems as though there was not necessarily a lot of thought given to grain drying and, particularly, to barn heating for livestock,” Wells said.

“The law currently penalizes farmers for something over which they have no control. They cannot shift their energy use away from fossil fuels because alternatives are not yet available. This makes the current situation punitive and fundamentally unfair.”

The carbon tax imposes significant problems because farmers are price takers, not price makers. “If their expenses are increased, they cannot pass those on.”

The bill includes an eight-year sunset clause for the tax break on the expectation that alternate technologies will be available by then.

Grain Farmers of Ontario has noted that under the current law, when the carbon tax reaches $170 per tonne, some farmers could pay between $50,000 and $70,000 yearly just in carbon taxes.

Unless changed, the carbon tax will extract hundreds of millions of dollars from the agriculture sector reducing the ability of farmers to invest in the capital-intensive innovations and technologies that drive sustainability and productivity gains, Wells said.

Ontario Senator Rob Black said the bill “is an essential piece of legislation aiming to support our farmers.”

The carbon tax “has been a source of frustration and financial hardship for many Canadians, especially those in the agricultural sector who are already facing high costs and ever-narrowing profit margins.”

A study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that the carbon tax is costing farmers an average of $14,000 a year. “That is a significant burden for many farming businesses that are already struggling to make ends meet. That study also found that the carbon tax is hindering the growth and development of the agricultural sector, which is a crucial component of our Canadian economy,” Black said.

“It is clear that the carbon tax is having a negative impact on Canadian farmers and that something needs to be done to address the issue.” Lobb’s bill “offers a practical solution that would provide relief to farmers without compromising our environmental goals.

“It would reduce input costs for farmers, making it easier for them to invest in new technology and infrastructure that will improve their efficiency and competitiveness over time,” Black said.

It would also encourage the growth and development of the agricultural sector, which is an essential component of our country’s economic and social well-being.

Black urged the bill be passed before the summer recess to provide relief the fall harvest and future planning.

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