Canada passes bill creating carve-outs for farmers in carbon pricing scheme

Ottawa –

The House of Representatives has passed a private lawmaker’s bill that creates a specific carve-out for farmers in Canada’s carbon pricing scheme.

The bill exempts farmers from paying for emissions from natural gas and propane used for certain activities performed on their farms, such as drying grain, preparing feed, irrigating and heating barns.

The bill was passed with the support of Conservative, NDP, Bloc Quebec and Green MPs, with several Liberals, including Agriculture Commissioner Cody Blois, joining the opposition to vote in favor.

A private parliamentary bill introduced by Conservative MP Ben Robb in February 2022, which would not exempt farmers from carbon pricing for activities conducted off-site, is currently being debated in the Senate.

Farmer groups say they are facing rising production costs, and the proposed law would give them important financial relief from rising costs.

The Agricultural Carbon Alliance, created by industry groups in 2021 in response to advocates for federal liberal climate policy and sustainable agriculture, celebrated progress on the bill on Thursday.

Dave Carey, co-chair of the group, said in a statement, “This legislation will provide farmers with the resources to invest in innovative and sustainable on-farm practices, while ensuring the security of food supplies. to ensure

One of its members, the Executive Director of Canadian Grain Producers, said the law would provide significant relief if passed.

“There is no point in punishing Canadian farmers for growing food unless there are alternatives to fossil fuels,” said Erin Gouriruk.

But not everyone celebrates the progress of the law.

Tim Gray, executive director of advocacy group Environmental Defense, said the law would undermine the government’s response to climate change.

“Excluding these high-emitting activities from farmers’ carbon pricing will only further encourage other sectors to demand similar treatments,” he said in a statement.

“This is already a problem. Many industries, especially the oil and gas sector, are seeking incentives that would allow them to pay much lower carbon prices than others, regardless of their actual lack of presence. We lobbied and achieved it.It is energy intensive and exposed to trade.”

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau claims the federal government is helping farmers reduce their carbon footprint and ease financial burdens through $3.5 billion sustainable agriculture partnerships with states. increase.

Federal carbon prices already waive the cost of gasoline and diesel used in tractors and trailers.

But farmers’ groups have long argued that further exemptions are needed, challenging the federal government’s characterization of how much carbon prices cost producers, especially for drying grains. Grain must be dried before it can be stored and sold.

The bill, currently pending in the Senate, only exempts farmers who dry grain on their property and does not apply to off-farm activities. The law also includes a sunset clause that allows the government to add, remove, or renew exemptions for eight years.

A previous bill introduced by Conservative MPs and widely supported by farming groups that would have opened up similar exemptions was repealed in a mandate ahead of the 2021 federal elections.

In response to farmers’ concerns at the time, Bibault announced dollars to help growers make their grain drying operations more environmentally sustainable.

The federal government says it is currently spending $37.1 million on 99 grain drying projects as part of its $495.7 million agriculture clean technology program.

Gourilk says Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has affected the way federal politicians discuss agricultural policy, arguing the conversation should focus on what Canada can do to help internationally. bottom.

An important part of it is “grow as much as you can”.

“There is growing recognition among Canadian politicians that this will not be easy, and if there is anything they can do to ease the burden and help keep farmers green instead of red, they are stepping up. ready to do it..”

Private legislators’ bills rarely pass parliament, but in minority government situations, more cooperation between political parties is likely to emerge.

A second private parliamentary bill focused on Liberal climate policy passed the House of Commons in the same session this week, with the support of Liberal MPs and ministers.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has proposed legislation that would require governments to develop national strategies to address environmental racism within two years of the bill being passed.

An earlier version of the bill, introduced by former Liberal MP Lenore Zhang, also died in the order paper in 2021, before the election.

Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged during a debate on the bill this week that the law would require the government to play ball.

“Then, support from the government at the time and the support of the Finance Minister was needed to fund the program so that communities of color, indigenous communities and poor communities would not be left without access to environmental justice. will be a member of parliament,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 30, 2023.

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