Friday, March 5, 2021

Farm groups coalesce on carbon issue

Canadian farm groups are coming together to lobby governments to pay more attention to what hurts and what helps farmers battle carbon emissions.

Dave Carey, co-chair of the Agriculture Carbon Alliance (ACA), said it represents 200,000 farmers.

It says the proposed schedule of carbon taxes, rising to $170 a tonne by 2030, is simply too much for farmers to afford. And right now it supports a private member’s bill to exempt farmers from the carbon tax on natural gas and propane used to dry grains and heat barns.

Another group, Farmers for Climate Solutions (FCS), which represents more than 20,000 producers,  is asking the federal government for $300 million to create six national programs to help farmers tackle climate change.

It includes $10 million for pilot programs to transition on-farm energy beyond diesel to clean energy. 

Carey said farmers have good connections with agriculture departments, but “we need to be front and centre with Environment and Climate Change Canada. We don’t necessarily see farmers as their normal stakeholders.”

He said producers must “work strategically to ensure farm profitability continues, but also that farmers are recognized for their current environmental practices and this is not just another layer of cost and administration put on farmers because, really, they are the original environmentalists.”

Crops such as canola help sequester carbon into the soil, said Carey, who is also the vice-president for government and industry relations for the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

Farmers are also starting to adopt innovations such as precision agriculture, which uses cutting-edge technologies to minimize harm to the environment by reducing over-application of inputs such as fertilizer, he said.

The ACA includes the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Canadian Horticultural Council, Canadian Pork Council, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, and Turkey Farmers of Canada.

The coalition “will work proactively on behalf of Canadian agriculture to advocate for constructive and evidence-based policies regarding carbon pricing, offsets, retrofit funding, and related environmental policies,” said a statement by the ACA.

Agriculture economist Al Mussell, in his most recent analytical report, said the federal government seems to treat agriculture are a carbon culprit and doesn’t recognize its potential to provide solutions.