GUELPH — Offer a proven alternative to fossil fuels for drying grain or exempt us from carbon pricing: Ontario’s largest commodity organization is making that demand of political candidates during this federal election campaign.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) highlights that need within one of three key “asks” posed to those running for office. And similar concerns have been brought forward by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in a viewpoint published to coincide with the election as well.
Until alternatives to fossil fuel-fired grain drying exist, grain farmers “require an exemption on carbon pricing on fuel and the promised retroactive rebate on carbon pricing paid to date on fuel for grain drying,” declares the GFO, making the major demand as part of a broader request for a “low carbon toolbox for grain farmers that helps Canada achieve net zero objectives.”
As part of that, GFO also wants a carbon offset market that “allows for the realities of grain farming,” as well as “science-based tools” to manage nutrients and reduce emissions, including the 4R program. Also demanded is more support of biofuels through a Clean Fuels Regulation.
Echoing the GFO on the carbon front, Ontario Federation of Agriculture Vice President Mark Reusser notes “there are currently no replacements” for fossil fuels in agricultural production and that “the current carbon tax system cannot drive conservation efforts on farms.” Reusser adds the existing carbon regime “cannot drive conservation efforts on farms and serves only to reduce already thin farm margins.”
Consequently, the OFA wants the political parties to support exemptions or rebates for farmers “where there are no feasible alternatives” to fossil fuels, he says. And any carbon taxes that are collected must “assist agriculture research, innovation, adaptational and resilience measures.”
Beyond the domestic carbon issue, GFO’s other two major “asks” are: a business risk program that “works for farmers” rather than the current “inadequate” AgriStability program; and a resolution to outstanding trade issues such as “massively subsidized” imports that aren’t subject to carbon pricing and China’s defacto ban on Canadian soybeans. The trade file includes the need for a UK/Canada agreement for continued tariff-free grain access to that country.
“These asks are specifically designed to promote the sustainability of grain farming in Ontario for the future and to ensure that farmers can continue to do the important work they do to provide safe healthy food and help the environment,” said Brendan Byrne, Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario.
For its part, the OFA wants better support programs that recognize the environmental good farmers already do.
In other priorities, the OFA is highlighting the sector’s labour challenges by calling for the development of a Canadian Agri-Food Labour Strategy and continued support for the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
The OFA also echoes the GFO in calling for stronger business risk management programs and revisions to AgriStability.