BY KYLE LARKIN
In my first few months as executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC), I’ve had the privilege to witness the hardworking dedication of the country’s grain farmers. What truly stands out is their resiliency in confronting challenges and seizing opportunities. Their hard work is a major driver of Canada’s economy. Agriculture contributes $135 billion to our GDP.
All Canadians feel the impact of rising costs at the grocery store and gas pump, but rising input costs and operational expenses are exacting a heavy toll on farmers and even driving younger farmers out of the sector. This is why Bill C-234 is crucial. The Bill is now before the Senate with second reading complete. If passed, it will extend the existing farm fuel exemption to the federal carbon tax to include natural gas and propane.
Canada is globally recognized as a provider of high-quality, safe and nutritious food. If we want to continue this legacy, we need to develop a system that supports farmers and enables them to thrive. This includes encouraging younger members of farm families to stay involved in agriculture and to encourage those without farming backgrounds to join the sector.
We are also in a period of transformation. Sustainability is a main point of focus for the federal government and a pressing concern for many Canadians. The country’s farmers have a longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, but this requires a pragmatic approach that balances sustainability and productivity. This will be reflected in the GGC Road to 2050 recommendations, to be released within the next few months.
We can already see this approach in Bill C-234 as it makes its way through the Senate. Carbon pricing is driving up farm costs, especially for natural gas and propane, which are vital for practices such as irrigation, grain drying, feed preparation and climate control in agricultural structures. The lack of viable energy alternatives makes carbon pricing associated with these essential farm practices punitive and diverts funds from on-farm efficiency investments.
The Bill proposes targeted carbon pricing exemptions for on-farm fuel, bridging the gap between carbon surcharges and existing rebates. Instead of penalizing farmers, this pragmatic legislation supports critical investments in on-farm efficiencies, including energy-efficient grain dryers, precision agriculture technology, anaerobic digesters and solar panels. These innovations require substantial investments, often totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars, and carbon surcharges redirect funds from farmers, hindering emission reductions and food security efforts.
However, C-234 is just a piece of this complex puzzle. It reflects the middle ground and the kind of balanced approach we need to take to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The future of Canadian agriculture is at a crossroads, with challenges and opportunities ahead. The issues of generational transition, rising input costs and the imperative of sustainability demand our unwavering attention and collaborative efforts.
Progress often involves measured steps, not sweeping leaps. We must navigate the road ahead with wisdom, pragmatism and a clear sense of purpose. Striking a balance between environmental responsibility and the practical needs of farmers will enable them to excel in feeding a growing world.
Kyle Larkin is the executive director of GGC.