Letter to Prime Minister of Canada on Carbon Pricing

November 09, 2016

SPG sends letter to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing opposition to a mandatory minimum price for carbon.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) is a farmer-led development board in Saskatchewan charged with helping to expand the pulse crop industry in the province. I am writing to you today to express our opposition to a mandatory minimum price for carbon announced in early October.

Imposing a minimum price on carbon will cause significant economic harm to pulse crop producers in Saskatchewan and to the consumers of our products in markets around the world. Costs of key inputs for crop production such as fuel and fertilizer will rise, negatively impacting our competitiveness relative to producers in other countries that do not have similar carbon pricing requirement in place.  Exemptions for agricultural producers will not adequately deal with this issue since the carbon pricing applied to inputs will be passed on to farmers in the form of higher input costs.

In any Canadian climate change policy, we must also recognize the role agriculture, and more specifically farmers, play in reducing carbon emissions. The Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) notes that 0.38 tonnes of CO2 per acre is being sequestered every year by Saskatchewan growers through the use of minimum or zero tillage practices, resulting in 8.75 million new tonnes of CO2 being sequestered each year. Pulses, including the peas, lentils, chickpeas and dry beans that Saskatchewan producers grow, contribute very positively to reduced energy use in the cropping system.  One of the largest impacts of increased pulse crop production has been the drastic reduction in summerfallow, resulting in lower fuel use, increased carbon sequestration and improved soil protection. Research undertaken by the Saskatchewan Research Council in 2011 showed that by including one year of peas in a typical crop rotation, non-renewable energy use of the entire cropping system is reduced by 25 per cent. The same research showed that adding one year of lentils to the rotation reduced non-renewable energy use by 21 per cent. The primary source of these energy savings is due to the addition of the nitrogen-fixing pulse crop in the rotation and the resulting lower nitrogen fertilizer requirements for the cropping system as a whole. It is like getting four crops for the energy cost of three.

The global food system has the immense challenge of sustainably producing enough food for more than nine billion people by 2050. Canadian agriculture has a tremendous role to play in being a major contributor to providing healthy, nutritious and sustainable food to the world. However, we must not add more costs into the food supply chain

Additional taxes or costs imposed on the food system will not only harm Canadian producers, but will raise the cost of staple food products such as pulses and other crops for consumers.

While we export to over 100 countries, the reality is that a handful of developing countries such as India, Bangladesh and others import our products as staple foods to feed their growing populations. The impact of higher food costs will be felt most by consumers that live on just a few dollars per day and who can least afford to pay more. 

It is clear that the practices of Saskatchewan crop farmers are making significant contributions to decreased carbon emissions while at the same time increasing food production to feed a hungry, growing population. However, as farmers, we want to do more. Directly through our own farms and through our investments in research funded by producer dollars, we constantly strive to produce more with a smaller footprint on the environment. We respectfully ask you to reconsider the proposed carbon pricing policy and its unintended consequences on farmers’ competitiveness and the cost of food for the consumers around the world. We would be pleased to work with the Government of Canada to identify where we can jointly make investments to further reduce carbon emissions in our sector and respond to the challenge of producing healthy and nutritious food in a sustainable way for all.

Sincerely,

Tim Wiens

Chair, Board of Directors

c:         The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

            The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade

            The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

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