AGRI Committee Testimony—Glenn Wright

On Monday, October 3, 2022, Glenn Wright, NFU farmer, lawyer and engineer presented at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food with regards to Bill C-234: An Act to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. Listen to his presentation here.

The following is Glenn’s presentation in writing:

Thank you for inviting the National Farmers Union to provide submissions to committee here today.

My name is Glenn Wright, and I have been an active member of the National Farmers Union, or NFU, since 2017. I supported my farm with off-farm income by working first as a professional engineer for 15 years, and now as a lawyer. My wife and I operate our grain farm near Vanscoy, Saskatchewan.

NFU policy positions are developed through a democratic process of discussion and debate by members at regional and national conventions.

The harvest of 2019 on the Prairies was referred to as the “harvest from hell” because nearly all the grain taken from the fields was either tough or damp. There was significant grain spoilage for many producers, including my farm, and grain drying required far more energy than expected that fall.

As a result, at the 50th annual convention of the NFU in November 2019, NFU members passed a policy resolution that requested that the federal government provide a rebate of the carbon levy on farm fuel used for grain drying. NFU members could not understand why grain dryer fuel was not treated the same as tractor fuel in the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which hereafter I will refer to as simply the pollution pricing act.

Since the passing of that NFU resolution, recent changes made by Bill C-8 introduced a tax credit to return fuel charge proceeds to farming businesses where the pollution pricing act federal backstop applies: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The NFU believes that the amendments introduced by Bill C-8 were a step in the right direction, and the NFU urges the committee to be cautious with respect to further changes proposed with Bill C-234.

The NFU worries that Bill C-234 proposes to create a complete exemption for farm heating fuels, which would entirely remove the pollution pricing signal currently provided by the pollution pricing act. Pollution pricing signals are important because they encourage producers to find and implement lower-emissions practices to heat our barns and dry our grain. The current system, as modified by Bill C-8, is now striking a better balance as it retains the pollution pricing signal without threatening food production.

The problem with Bill C-234 is that a complete exemption does nothing to encourage clean technology and low-emission alternatives. The exemption proposed by Bill C-234 may have been more sensible when the pollution pricing act was first drafted, but it becomes less appropriate as clean alternatives are available.

The growing body of climate science information regarding dangerous climate change requires an urgent policy response. In the context of Canadian agriculture and Bill C-234, the following points must be considered.

Number one is that greenhouse gas pollution must be reduced as fast as possible. There are no easy, cost-free ways to accomplish this task. In our capitalist market-based economy, pollution price signals are important for all players, including farmers.

Number two is that adequate supplies of food must be maintained. The pollution pricing act reflected this and exempted most farm-used fuel from pollution pricing.

As for number three, the NFU was disappointed that farm-used grain-drying fuel was not included as farm-used fuel in the pollution pricing act. Bill C-8 has improved the situation regarding fuel used for grain drying while still providing some pricing signal to reflect the cost of ongoing pollution.

The NFU recommends that the government continue to assist farmers to transition to better practices by providing incentives for farmers to purchase more efficient grain dryers and improve livestock facilities, and that it continue using the pollution pricing act to provide price signals for farmers regarding the costs of pollution where possible.

Specifically with respect to Bill C-234, the NFU recommends that this committee amend Bill C-234 to include a sunset clause for the exemption that would treat grain-drying and barn-heating fuel as farm-used fuel. The sunset period would provide time for clean grain drying technologies to mature and provide time for farmers to retrofit farm building insulation and heating systems to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from their farms.

Subject to any questions, those are our submissions from the NFU today.