By Tom Collins
Ontario grain farmers had a tough harvest. Much of the crop was late, yields were underwhelming and extremely high moisture levels meant farmers had to dry their corn — including soybeans in a few unusual cases — for longer periods of time.
Then farmers started getting their natural gas bills and saw huge cost increases thanks to the new carbon tax.
Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) director of District 3 (Lambton County) Emery Huszka, said farmers with propane dryers were hit exceptionally hard, as a short CN rail strike killed propane supply for a week.
“It was cheaper to take (corn) to an elevator and pay them to dry than for you to dry it yourself,” he said. “We’ve got millions of dollars worth of infrastructure that (on paper) has just been turned into worthless hunk of steel. That’s wrong. It also didn’t eliminate a carbon footprint because you’re going to spend more trucking it up to the elevator.”
He’s not the only one upset. The carbon tax was one of the biggest discussion points at GFO district meetings in early January as growers expressed their frustration and want the GFO to do something about the carbon tax.
GFO directors say the organization is meeting with the federal government to get relief for farmers.
Meantime, carbon prices are expected to get worse. Last year, the federal government pushed the tax onto Ontario residents at $20 per tonne. The federal government plans to more than double that to $50 per tonne by 2022.
Huszka said about 20 per cent of his most recent natural gas bill was just the carbon tax.
“As that carbon tax ramps up, that (price) is going to more than double,” he said. “It’s a straight money grab and very frustrating.”
GFO director for District 8 (Huron County) Keith Black said farmers in his area are frustrated. He said while farmers were expecting to see an increase in drying costs “because of the high moisture corn in our area, we used a lot more fuel, so the actual impact was a lot bigger than people were expecting.”
He said some businesses can pass on the extra costs to the consumer but grain farmers can’t.
“It’s a direct hit to the farmer,” he said. “The only way we can combat it is to lobby for some government relief. There’s no way we can do anything except buy the gas and pay it.”
GFO chair Marcus Haerle said the federal government has said it will be looking into some type of compensation for farmers impacted by the carbon tax. He said there are no details on how much money farmers would receive, how compensation would be allocated or whether those affected would get a cheque or a discount on future bills.
Grain farmers had a plethora of challenges at district meetings, ranging from trade war effects and depressed prices to farm finances.
WESTERN ONTARIO: Grain farmers frustrated, feel punished by carbon tax
By Tom Collins