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Carbon tax will hit farmers hard, says agriculture group

Farm group calls on government for made-in-Alberta climate plan
Team Alberta — a collaboration of Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola, Alberta Pulse Growers and the Alberta Wheat Commission — is raising the alarm about the impact of carbon tax on farmers. (Photo supplied by Jeff Nielsen’s Twitter)

The federal carbon tax will threaten the sustainability of many farming operations and the affordability of the Canada’s domestic food supply, says an agriculture group.

The carbon tax increases on Thursday to $40 per tonne — up $10. It continues to increase until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030.

“We’re seeing an increase (in the tax) tomorrow and we’re seeing an increase for the next eight years until 2030,” said Olds-area farmer Jeff Nielsen on Wednesday. “That’s going to be a substantial cost for producers.”

Team Alberta — a collaboration of Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola, Alberta Pulse Growers and the Alberta Wheat Commission — raised the alarm about the impact of the carbon tax on farmers after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the tax was constitutional last week.

The decision dashed the hopes of those, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government, who opposed the tax and hoped the country’s top court would see it their way. Alberta can now adopt the federal carbon tax plan or come up with one on its own.

Team Alberta wants to see a made-in-Alberta climate plan that will ensure the sustainability of Alberta farmers.

Alberta’s farm representatives say without offsetting measures the carbon tax will make Canadian farm products — 80 per cent of which are exported — uncompetitive and threatens the affordability of the country’s domestic food supply.

To put the costs into perspective, Team Alberta says within the next two years carbon taxes will cost more than the bill for the propane or natural gas used in grain dryers.

“And you’re not going to see the price of commodities double in the next two years,” said Nielsen, adding, farmers are not getting carbon tax rebates or other offsetting financial help.

Growing numbers of farmers are adding grain dryers to ensure their crops are the best quality for sale and to improve efficiency.

“With farms getting larger you’re seeing more grain dryers being put on farms. They allow us producers to get out there a few more days earlier to start harvesting and getting the crop off.”

Nielsen said farmers have done much over the last 25 years to reduce their impact on the environment, such as going to zero tillage, which allows crops to be grown without tilling the soil, which sequesters carbons in the soil while reducing equipment use.

“My use of diesel has gone way down in the last 15 years.”

Sylvan Lake-area canola producer Mike Ammeter agrees the carbon tax could have a big impact on farmers’ bottom lines.

Should the grain drying numbers prove accurate “that’s not hard math to figure out, wow, that’s going to be expensive.

“As the producer of the primary commodity, we don’t have the ability to pass that on,” he said.

Anything that drives up costs for Canadian producers makes it harder for them to sell to world markets.

“It’s like trying to fight with one arm tied behind your back. It’s not a competitive advantage it’s a competitive disadvantage.

“I think that’s the worrisome part for me — losing your competitive advantage or being put at a disadvantage is something we just don’t need.”

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