Carbon pricing could wipe out some farmers' profits, Sask. ag group warns
SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan farmer Lee Moats says farmers need to be a part of the climate change solution - but there remains a tremendous amount of opposition to the carbon pricing regime.
“I think that we as Canadians, and people right across the world, have to take action. And maybe carbon taxes is part of that, but the implementation of it is just so astoundingly insensitive to some of the realities of agriculture,” he said.
“It hurts Canada's goals for agriculture to produce more and export more.”
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government’s carbon pricing regime is constitutional.
Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan President Todd Lewis said that according to the group’s analysis the added cost of producing wheat could be as high as $12.50 an acre. On a 5,000 acre farm, that's more than $60,000 a year.
“That's the profit margin for some operations,” he said.
However, Climate Justice Saskatoon co-organizer Mark Bigland-Pritchard says the effect of carbon pricing would be minimal on most people in Saskatchewan.
Something like a tank of gas, he says, would only increase by a couple dollars at the moment.
“Our emissions are relatively low, we'll probably be getting significantly more back (in a rebate), and that is something that is available to most of the people in Saskatchewan,” he said.
“We can then use some of that money to further improve our energy efficiency, if we want to.”
Moats, who farms just south of Regina, says a rebate on carbon pricing wouldn’t compensate those in the ag industry.
“We know that the business of food production costs a lot of carbon, so there's no way we're going to get rebated more than what we're paying, because we're high carbon use people.”
Bigland-Pritchard, who has a background in energy conservation and renewables, says the implementation of carbon pricing removes obstacles standing in the way of quickly transition to renewable sources of energy.
“The more obstacles we can get out of the way, obviously the faster we can move,” he said.
Bigland-Pritchard says everyone should be paying for pollution, but it should be recognized that industries like agriculture will feel the brunt of carbon pricing and given a negotiated rebate.
“It’s not rocket science, it's just a matter of sort of recognizing who's going to be unfairly hardest hit,” he said. “Those who cannot avoid those high emissions as part of their lifestyle, until they can move to electric vehicles and electric tractors to handle the size of farm that we have in Saskatchewan.
“I think there are those who will be fairly hardest hit, the wasteful industries, the wasteful individuals, they should be hit because that will encourage them to become less wasteful.”
Lewis says farmers have made huge strides over the decades in reducing their carbon footprint, but carbon pricing would make it harder to continue that trend.
“It's less affordable to try and adopt some of these new technologies, if we're going to be paying too much in this carbon pricing models as it is now, so we've got to get a balance,” he said.
Lewis says they’re looking for things like exemptions on propane and natural gas, and negotiate the current pricing models which he says would put Canadian farmers at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world.
“Agriculture has got a great story to tell,” he said. “We can always make improvements, but as I said before, we've done lots and we'll continue to do lots.”