Carbon Tax and Grain Farming

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.

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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.

https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/421/AGFO/Briefs/2017_11_29_Follow_up_PBO_e.pdf

 

 

Harvest 2016

We have officially pulled the pin on harvest 2016. I would like to say it was a good year but I can’t. We had rain delays starting in seeding that put the crops behind schedule. We had a massive hailstorm that wiped out a large percentage of our crops. We lost crops to running and standing water from storms. We kept getting rain that shut us down during harvest and downgraded our crops quality and then it SNOWED. October 4th and we had our first snow storm that brought everything to a grinding halt. We still have 100 acres of barley that needs to be combined and 130 acres of hailed out crops that need to be swathed and baled. In fact we still have 2 combines sitting in the field waiting to be brought home when the field freezes hard enough or dries up enough to get them out. But none of that matters because Mother Nature decided that we were done. Sending about an inch of rain followed by multiple snowstorms that levelled any standing crop and put so much moisture into the ground we still cant get around our fields.

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The first snowstorm dumped so much snow that I actually pulled my snowmobile out of the shop and sledded over to the farm to do morning chores. It even got cold enough at night to freeze all of the outside hydrants so that I was forced to bucket water from the farm house across the farm to the pigs and chickens. A couple days later I was harvesting garden produce for Thanksgiving dinner and it took a whole 15 minutes searching through the snow and wild dill to find the remaining 5 feet of carrots in their row!

We are working out scenarios for what crops we want to grow next year. We know that we cannot grow durum wheat for many years to come because of the levels of disease that are now in our soil from this year. We are attempting to market this years durum as well and it is so full of disease we are having trouble. The disease came from having over 20 inches of rain fall during the growing season. This year we got delt one bad card after another when it came to weather and we will feel the effects for years to come.

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Since our harvest was ended early we have moved onto all the other tasks on the endless list of farm jobs. This morning we sorted calves and ivermect’d the cows. Ivemectin is a type of medication used to protect cattle and other animals from parasites like worms and lice. Our corrals need a lot of work as well and we need to figure out where all our critters are going to winter so that they all have access to shelter. I think we are in for a wild winter! We still need to get all of our bales out of the field and if we go in when its frozen the twines will break as they are frozen to the ground and when it warms up its to muddy to be in the field 😫 Tomorrow we are supposed to be roofing one of our quanset’s so wish us luck that weather cooperates with us for once and no one gets blown away πŸ˜‰

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I want to wish everyone else still working on #harvest16 a safe, productive and fruitful harvest ❀️

 

Devastated

Well Mother Nature you have delt us a devastating blow. This was the year we thought we might get ahead, but I guess that’s farming isn’t it. Hail, tropical monsoon rain and wind. We will be lucky if we have enough peas to use as seed. Most or our pea crop is laying in the wet ground and the peas still in pods are cracked so as soon as we touch them with a combine they will shell out into the field. Our spring wheat is gone, durum and barley are hurt and we won’t know the extent of their damage until we go to harvest. Our lentils are laying on the ground and a lot have shelled out. It’s going to be very hard to combine them and if it doesn’t stop raining they may just rot where they lay before we can get to them. I would cry if it would make a difference.

I am not writing this because I am looking for sympathy. I am writing this because I want people to be aware of the heartbreak and the fragile existence of farming. Our entire crops existence is dependant on well timed weather. Not enough rain after seeding or through the summer and we watch our crops wither and die. Get enough rain when it’s needed but it doesn’t stop for harvest and we sit and watch our crops start to be adversely effected or rot in the fields. One 10 minute hail storm can wipe out our entire crop, we call it the white harvester. We farm because it is a calling, it’s a lifestyle choice and for us it’s not a job. Farming is all consuming, never ending hours in all weather conditions, it involves family sacrifice and sometimes complete heartache and devastation.

5 out of the last 6 years we have been hailed out and you know what, it hurts just as much each time. We will keep farming because it is who we are but one year it would sure be nice to catch a break and get a head.

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