Carbon pricing is coming, but Manitoba producers are still trying to suss out exactly what that will mean for their farms.
At Keystone Agricultural Producers’ annual general meeting in Winnipeg last week, three resolutions were put forward on the issue, including one asking for clarification on the organization’s position on the carbon pricing. That resolution — which asked that KAP develop an easy-to-interpret awareness campaign spelling out the direct and indirect costs of carbon pricing — was adopted with near unanimous support.
“There seems to be challenges understanding where KAP’s position truly is,” said Simon Ellis who introduced the motion. “And there seems to be a lot of rhetoric around who said what and where everybody sits, so this is to hopefully clarify that and make it crystal clear.”
But other resolutions regarding carbon pricing were greeted less favourably, including one that asked KAP to lobby the Manitoba government to “treat the carbon tax as a true transparent tax that is fully refundable perpetually, annually, and voluntary basis.”
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Moved by Gerry Demare, the resolution also asked that agricultural best management practices be funded with public tax dollars. He went on to say that the “resolution protects the interests of young and beginning farmers, small farms and large farmers alike.”
However, it was young and aspiring farmers who spoke out against the resolution.
“What kind of message is that sending to the general public? Are we being accountable by opting out?” asked Jake Ayre, an agriculture student at the University of Manitoba. He added that if producers aren’t at the table in good faith as carbon pricing is introduced, government will be less inclined to listen to and work with farmers in the future.
After speaking with her classmates, Bailey Sigvaldason said the consensus was that the resolution put producers’ social licence at risk.
“We agree that this is also sending a message that we aren’t accountable for our own choices that we make on our farms,” she said. “We want to send a message to the public that we want to be part of the conversation, we want to be part of moving forward and helping our environment, and making them pay to help us doesn’t send the message we want to help ourselves.”
Rob Brunel said recognizing the cost of carbon pricing by offering incentives for producers to sequester carbon or invest in advanced technology makes sense, but couldn’t see that anyone would choose to participate in a voluntary tax.
“Where you lost me is on the fully refundable, perpetually, annually and voluntary basis, and I think that’s where this gets a little hokey, let’s face it,” he said.
Ultimately, no one defended the resolution except for Demare and it was referred to committee.
“We got to talk about it, as an industry and as a province, so democracy ruled at the end of the day. We ended up sending it to committee, we didn’t turf it, and it’s still open for discussion — that’s a good thing,” said KAP president Dan Mazier, emphasizing the organization’s policy on carbon pricing is open to debate and change.
Currently, KAP’s policy on carbon pricing includes lobbying the provincial government to exempt all on-farm emissions from its yet-to-be-announced carbon pricing plan, while also asking it to reinvest revenue generated by agriculture back into the industry.
The provincial government has previously indicated it will outline a “made-in-Manitoba” plan to reduce emissions in the first quarter of this year. Few details of what that plan might look like have been released, but Premier Brian Pallister has ruled out a cap-and-trade system in the past and KAP has met with government representatives to discuss carbon pricing.
Provinces must design and implement their own plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or they will have one imposed on them by Ottawa, beginning with a carbon price of $10 per tonne in 2018. Having ratified the Paris agreement on climate change, along with China, the U.S., India, the European Union and others, Canada has agreed to cut its emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The final resolution regarding carbon pricing adopted at the AGM was written by University of Manitoba students and asked the general farm organization to “lobby the Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba to reinvest all revenue collected through carbon taxes on agricultural inputs and transportation back into primary agriculture.”
Carter McKinney said that as a young farmer, he is concerned about the impact carbon pricing will have on his future.
“With young farmers we have little to no equity in our farming operations… so things like this carbon pricing could really affect our ability and our entrance into the industry,” he said. “We want to make sure we get ahead of carbon pricing before it started adding up.”