The federal government is developing a Greenhouse Gas Offset System program for farmers.
“It could offer important opportunities for farmers to generate carbon offset credits,” federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told Keystone Agricultural Producers’ (KAP) online annual meeting Jan. 26.
“Over the coming weeks we will publish regulations for comment, and one of the first offset credit proposals under development will be around the organic carbon of soils. I encourage you to engage with this process.”
Bibeau told reporters later that the program, which is very technical and scientific, was still in its early stages.
“I think there is an opportunity for our farmers to be recognized for all the efforts they are doing to reduce their emissions and to always elevate the level of sustainable agriculture in Canada,” she added.
Manitoba grain and oilseed farmers will benefit from the significant market for biofuels the federal government is creating under its new Clean Fuel Standard, Bibeau told KAP.
“By increasing the amount of biofuels blended into our gas, not only will we decrease the harmful carbon emissions, but we will create a multi-billion market for Canadian crops,” she said.
“And the $200-million Climate Action Incentive Fund, financed through revenues from the federal pollution pricing system, has already supported more than 200 energy-efficiency projects in agriculture. Alongside the provinces, we continue investing in the sector to improve the energy efficiency of agricultural equipment. For instance, helping a farmer replace an old, inefficient grain dryer or install solar panels for watering systems.”
The federal carbon tax, which will rise to $170 a tonne by 2030, will add cost throughout Canada’s food chain, KAP president Bill Campbell said in his opening address.
“The proposed tax increase will put unnecessary pressure on farmers and consumers,” he said. “It’s also critical that the government recognize the climate benefits that farmers provide every day, including carbon storage and greenhouse gas mitigation. The fact is that farmers store carbon short term in their products and long term in the soil, and thanks to good management practices, and new technology, emissions intensity in agriculture has improved year after year.”
Fuel used in farm equipment is exempt from the carbon tax, but fuel for grain dryers and heating farm buildings and barns is not.
KAP has, and continues, to push Ottawa for an exemption, Campbell said.
Conservative MP Philip Lawrence has introduced a private member’s bill to fix that, Campbell said. It has good cross-party support, according to Campbell, who hopes the Liberal government will vote for it too.
Later in the meeting, KAP members voted 92 per cent in favour of a resolution to lobby the federal government to review its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to see if the goal of reducing carbon emissions is being met in agriculture, and see how carbon pricing revenue is being used by agriculture.
Debate on the resolution centred on an amendment that changed the original wording from “carbon tax revenue” to “carbon pricing revenue.”
The amendment, moved by Lowe Farm farmer Dean Harder, passed with 58 per cent in favour, 38 opposed and four per cent abstaining.
Several KAP members, including Murray Klassen, representing the Manitoba Chicken Producers, opposed the amendment arguing a price on carbon is a tax and should be called that.
But District 1 farmer Jake Ayre said if KAP wants to influence the government’s position it should use the same language as the government.