By Connor Lynch
When word first came that Ontario would be moving to a cap-and-trade program for pricing carbon, the reaction was mostly consternation in farm country. A small point of light, though a mirage to many, was the promise of offset credits for agriculture, where farmers could get carbon credits because crops sequester carbon.
In 2015, then-OFA president Don McCabe wrote that carbon offsets “could even be a modest revenue stream for Ontario farmers,” telling Farmers Forum last year that the offsets were “locked in law,” and simply a matter of time.
McCabe also said last year that “the OFA never asked for carbon to be priced. The best way for it to be priced is through cap-and-trade.” Offset credits are not ready for agriculture, and the government appears to be in no hurry.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Keith Currie told Farmers Forum that not only are the credits not ready, but said they likely wouldn’t be before the end of the year.
“We’ve put a push on (the Liberals) to get this done now,” said Currie. “If there’s any opportunity to do it, it’s now.”
Former chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, Mark Brock, agreed. The promise of carbon offsets but the lack of follow-through has been an ongoing nervousness at the GFO, Brock said. “I think that’s an area where I would challenge the GFO and other organizations to work in collaboration to minimize the impact of the low-carbon economy.
“All producers need to push harder for recognition that we have an opportunity here that will hopefully result in value for the carbon captured in our plants,” Brock said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change said the government was aiming to finalize some agricultural offsets by the end of 2018.
“We will take the time to get it right,” said media spokesperson Gary Wheeler.
Ontario announced in 2015 it would be implementing a cap-and-trade scheme, almost three years ago.
The timing could render carbon offsets a moot point entirely. Ontario voters go to the polls on or before June 7 and the strongest rivals to the ruling Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives, are opposed to carbon pricing, including the carbon tax.