By Patrick Meagher
A grassroots drive to end the carbon tax on farm use propane and natural gas is gathering steam across Western Ontario.
An exemption resolution was passed unanimously last month in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, straddling Lake Huron, said Mayor Glen McNeil, a local dairy farmer.
McNeil “absolutely” believes that the grassroots push is more than symbolic and that lower government pressure can change federal law on the carbon tax. “The intent was to show our support for the removal of the carbon tax,” he said.
The resolution was also passed on Sept. 2 by Huron County council.
The carbon tax on grain dryers and barns “seems to be an oversight from the government but they say they will not change it,” Huron County warden Jim Ginn said. “Hopefully, we can put enough pressure on government.”
All of Ontario’s 444 municipalities will receive a copy of the resolution. “If we get wide-ranging support there is a possibility of taking this across the country,” he said. “You never know how far these things will go.”
He added the regulation needs to be changed at the federal level and that it would be helpful if an Member of Parliament takes up the cause.
“It’s a little strange that fuel for your tractor or combine is exempt but fuel for your grain dryer or barn is not,” said Ginn, who is also a beef cow-calf operator. “We all know that farmers are price takers. So, (when it comes to heating a barn or crop irrigation) there is no way for us to recover those costs.”
He added that agriculture is huge in Huron County, recording farm gate sales equal to half of farmgate sales in the four maritime provinces combined.
The carbon tax exemption resolution will also be presented next month to the Western Ontario wardens caucus, representing 15 Western Ontario counties, and will “probably” be adopted, said Ginn who is the caucus chairman.
The federal carbon tax was introduced in April, 2019 at $20 per tonne and was increased in April to $30 per tonne. The tax will increase to $50 per tonne by 2022. The Grain Farmers of Ontario estimated that the carbon tax last year cost corn growers $5.48 per acre. Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that according to data submitted by ag organizations, the cost of the carbon tax was as low as $200 per farm per year, or as high as $800 per farm per year in Ontario.
Earlier this year Senator Diane Griffin called on all senators to support a bill ending the carbon tax on farm use of propane and natural gas. At the same time, Grain Growers of Canada chairman Jeff Nielson said that “Given the clear desire for this legislative change in both chambers and across party lines, our hope is that the federal government would include broader exemptions for all fuels used in farming operations in the Budget Implementation Act – once tabled. This is not about politics. This is about the sustainability of the family farm in Canada.”
Huron County cash crop and livestock farmer Anita Frayne launched the grassroots effort to end the on-farm carbon tax, “I read a lot and pay attention to the issues and the carbon tax did not make sense to me,” she said. “I saw that a lot of the farm groups were lobbying the government. I had never seen such broad-based support for anything in agriculture. Everyone is on the same page. So, I decided to go to council to push this from the grassroots up.”
She was joined by area resident Maggie Durnin, studying crop science at the University of Guelph, who will use social media to spread the word.
They are encouraging farmers to write letters to politicans (See their sample letter on page 35).