Farmers concerned carbon pricing could raise their input and output costs

REGINA – The National Farmers Union says it supports steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but is concerned that Ottawa’s proposed carbon pricing could hurt producers.

NFU President Jan Slomp says farmers could end up paying more for inputs, such as fuel or fertilizer, as well as outputs, if companies that buy grain pass along their carbon tax to farmers.

“I, myself, am very concerned that livestock is put in the doghouse here,” Slomp said in a phone interview from his home in Courtenay, B.C.

According to Agriculture Canada’s website, 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production, excluding emissions from the use of fossil fuels or from fertilizer production.

Carbon dioxide is released during soil cultivation, methane is associated with cattle and livestock manure, and nitrous oxide comes from using fertilizer and manure.

Slomp also said there are concerns about a cap and trade system, in which industries are allotted permits for emissions that they can buy and sell.

“The first thing is that we might not get real reductions of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“And the second one is that we have a disproportionate heavy load carried by people that don’t have the economic power or clout to be winners in this trading scheme.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that the federal Liberal government will establish a floor price on carbon pollution of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Trudeau said the federal government will implement a price in any province or territory that doesn’t have either a carbon price or a cap-and-trade system in place by 2018.

Slomp said that at this point the NFU is not favouring one idea or the other. The union is just concerned about achieving real emissions reductions and that the costs “are borne fairly and not offloaded on the weakest link.”

“We definitely need to have a protection of small-scale producers that they don’t end up being subjected to all kinds of rules and regulations that don’t leave them any room,” he said.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities said a lot of farmers are already struggling with production costs.

Association president Ray Orb said it’s not fair that they could end up absorbing the costs of a carbon tax too.

“We’re worried about that,” said Orb.

“We think that farmers have done enough already as far as mitigating greenhouse gas emissions — particularly with zero till farming, they sequestered a lot of carbon into the soil. And if anything, farmers should qualify for some kind of credit and should be recognized for that.”

Orb said the association and farmers should be consulted before the plan goes any further.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture President Ron Bonnett said earlier this week that farmers will require special consideration as the carbon pricing regulations take effect, because of the additional expenses they will incur.