How the Carbon Tax Will Affect Agriculture
By MacKenzie Henn, University of Saskatchewan Student
There is no doubt that environmental sustainability is a hot topic and there are always innovations and policies being created to improve the environmental sustainability of our planet. Last year Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his national carbon-pricing plan which will force every Canadian province and territory to implement a carbon tax of $10 per tonne on carbon dioxide by 2018 and increase the price to $50 per tonne by 2022. While many environmentalists are praising Trudeau for his efforts, Canadian farmers are concerned about the effects the carbon tax will have on their operations.
Many Canadian farmers are already finding it difficult to be profitable in the economic downturn. With many farmer’s crops sitting under snow, and cattle producers experiencing a loss on their cattle due to decreasing prices, the industry’s producers are already feeling pinched for cash. Wester Feeders, one of Canadas largest cattle feeder operations has announced that they plan to shut their gates in early 2017 due to poor political and economic conditions. Western says if conditions were to change there may be a way to keep operations running, however, the implementation of the carbon tax will cause the price of production to increase, leaving farmers with less profit in their pockets making it more difficult for agriculture operations like Wester Feeders to keep their heads above water.
Is This What’s Best for the Environment?
Agriculture today is more environmentally friendly than ever before. Farmers work hard to keep up to date on sustainable farming practices such as adopting of no-till practices which keep more carbon in the soil, planting more efficient crops and purchasing more fuel-efficient machinery. However, it seems that isn’t enough to please the environmentally conscious consumer. While many believe that a carbon tax is a step in the right direction, it may have a backlashed effect. The carbon tax will increase the cost of production, leaving farmers with less money to invest in environmentally friendly technology, causing the entire Canadian industry to fall behind in innovations and ultimately be more harmful to the environment in the long run. In addition to this, with the business of farming becoming less and less profitable many farmers will follow the lead of Western Feeders and shut down operations altogether. Fewer farmers will give rise to a decrease in supply of agricultural commodities, and in turn, Canada will have to import these products to meet Canadians demand. Importing products from other countries will lead to more fossil fuels being burned transporting these products than if they were produced domestically and again having an opposite effect on the environment and fundamentally contradicting the purpose of the carbon tax.
How Does this Impact Consumers?
Placing a carbon tax will affect not only Canadian farmers but also Canadian consumers. If the price of producing agricultural commodities increases so will the prices at the grocery store. In addition to this, outsourcing agricultural products from other countries will also lead to a hike in prices to cover the costs of transportation. Importing commodities from other jurisdictions also may result in a lower quality product on grocery store shelves compared with Canadian made products. In short, the carbon tax is not a fool proof solution for decreasing environmental impacts and will also have adverse effects on consumers.
So What’s a Solution?
Taking a step towards a better future for our environment is important. However, I do not believe that the national carbon-pricing plan is the most efficient action. In British Columbia where a carbon tax has been in place since 2008, taxed emissions rose 4.3 percent in a ten-year period, while untaxed emissions decreased by 2.1 percent. BC’s failed carbon pricing system proves that rather than improving environmental sustainability, the carbon tax will hinder Canadian agriculture and make Canadian farmers less competitive with other large agriculture producing jurisdictions. The government should take steps to promote sustainability in the agricultural sector by creating programs to develop innovating technology that is environmentally sustainable as well as aid farmers in investing in environmental innovations. If you believe the government should put a stop to the national carbon-pricing plan and instead invest in promoting sustainable agriculture, please sign the Western Canadian Wheat Growers petition against the carbon tax on farmers and food.
MacKenzie has just finished her third-year at the University of Saskatchewan pursuing a degree in Agribusiness. This past year MacKenzie studied at HAS University of Applied Sciences in S’-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, where she is studied International Food and Agribusiness, obtaining a minor in International Business Development. MacKenzie’s passion for agriculture began at a young age while growing up on her family farm west of Airdrie, Alberta. Upon completion of her degree, MacKenzie plans to work in the agriculture industry to promote sustainable agriculture and Canada’s western heritage.