I am going to preface this post by saying that I am in no ways a climate change denier. I do however believe that a tax on carbon is not the best way to move forward, especially within an industry that is already pushing to become more and more sustainable and sequestering carbon and decreasing carbon emissions. We need to work with industry and think past our borders to work with other countries that are industrializing.
I’m sick of people telling me the tax can be rebated back to me so that it doesn’t cost me as farmer. What is the point in taxing and then giving back, how is that supposed to ‘force’ a change? A change that agriculture is already pushing toward without a dictated tax.
Below is a description of what a forced carbon tax would mean to me, a grain farmer in Saskatchewan.
Data from the Parliamentary Budget Officers report link at the bottom. Numbers compiled by the shadow Ag Committee, analysis based off 25$/ton.
Recently I had the pleasure of being present for a speech from John Barlow, one of the shadow ministers for agriculture. He talked about carbon tax and had some numbers that really got to me. By 2022 or for a province under which a carbon tax is forced (like Saskatchewan) the ‘average’ crop farm will owe $20,000.00 a year in carbon tax. Average acres being defined as 1375.
Let me explain what that would mean for my farm. This year we seeded 2100 acres and we are considered a small farm in the area we farm in. Running calculation of a forced carbon tax of $50/ton on 2100 acres our farm would owe $30,291.00.
$30,000! Let that amount sink in for a minute and now picture adding it to a farmers already extensive list of expenses. We pay rent or mortgage on every single acre that we farm, we have insurance premiums and bills for fuel, chemical, seed and fertilizer. We have large equipment loans for equipment we use approximately 6 weeks a year and of course we have the labor costs associated with running our operations. To this add one of the largest challenges farmers face and that is we have zero control or influence over our end prices. We cannot raise our commodity prices to offset our growing expenses. For a young farm family, a new farmer or a farm that has had a couple bad years in a row a tax of $30,000 or more could potentially sink their operation.
Now we have heard the Federal Government respond saying a tax won’t be that bad or that perhaps in agriculture the carbon tax will only be charged to a farmer on fuel. But the reality is if there is still a carbon tax applied to other facets of agriculture like fertilizer, transportation and equipment manufacturing it will still be the farmer footing the bill.
Canadian farmers are working hard to diminish their carbon footprint without government intervention. Adapting no till farming practices has resulted in a measured reduction of 1.5 million tons of carbon per year by just decreasing the amount of nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer application. In layman’s terms crop land loose less nitrogen when not tilled or worked less. When crop land is farmed using no till practises it also becomes a more efficient carbon sink thanks to increased levels of carbon in the soil from undisturbed organic mater like roots. In 2015 Canada’s crop lands captured 14 million tons of carbon, largely from no till farming practises.
Currently the Federal government does not count or acknowledge the carbon sequestration from agriculture when calculating Canada’s carbon emissions. But the Federal government is quick to attempt to force a carbon tax on Canadian farmers. Carbon emissions from Canadian agriculture only account for about 10% of all Canada’s overall emissions. Canadian farmers are working hard to become more sustainable and environmental with the use of best management practices like no till, all without having a tax forced upon them.