November 24, 2016

Saskatchewan Agriculture is Part of the Solution to Climate Change

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Canadian Western Agribition is truly a world class event.  Year after year, the show is a major international marketplace and showcase for Saskatchewan producers and innovation.

Agribition brings a great deal of business to Saskatchewan and always generates a lot of excitement.  The popularity and prestige of this event speaks to the importance of our agriculture industry.

Agriculture is one of the main drivers of Saskatchewan’s diversified economy, contributing about 10 per cent of the province’s GDP, and the livestock sector is a major contributor of that success.

The success of Saskatchewan’s farmers and ranchers is due in no small part to their dedication to the environment.  Saskatchewan producers are some of the best environmental stewards in the country.  You can’t grow a good crop or raise healthy animals without caring for the world you live in.

Through investments in research and the adoption of new technologies, farmers and ranchers have reduced their environmental footprint and mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

For example, we know from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association that since 1981 greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle have declined by 14 per cent for methane, 15 per cent for nitrous oxide and 12 per cent for carbon dioxide.

On the crop production side, significant investments in research and development have also allowed us to improve our stewardship.

Take pulse crops.

Thirty years ago, pulse crops were still a pretty rare sight in Saskatchewan.  Today, chickpeas, peas and lentils are a multi-billion dollar export industry for our province.  We export nearly four billion dollars’ worth of pulses and are home to the nation’s largest pulse crop breeding programs.

These crops are not just good for the economy and the province, they are also good for the environment because they require little or no nitrogen fertilizer.

One pulse crop in a four-year rotation can reduce GHG emissions by 13 to 25 per cent.

Our history of agricultural innovation includes zero-till agriculture, a method pioneered in Western Canada and is now regular practice across North America.

Through zero-till, farmers are able to conserve moisture and keep land producing continuously, while at the same time preventing wind & water erosion.  We are sequestering carbon in the soil, while growing crops to help feed the world at the same time.

Our agricultural soils are an enormous carbon sink.

Without Saskatchewan, Canadian soils would be net emitters rather than sequestering carbon.  Our ag soils absorbed about 11.4 million tonnes of carbon in 2014.  That is equivalent to taking more than 2.4 million vehicles off the road.  This doesn’t even take into account the almost 12 million acres of native pasture land that also sequesters carbon.

We oppose a national carbon tax.

A carbon tax strikes at the heart of what we do best – feeding & fueling Canada and the world.

A national carbon tax will cripple our competitiveness and threaten our productivity at a time when demand is growing globally for what we produce.  The world needs more Saskatchewan, not less.

Some 50,000 people in the agriculture sector make their living in an industry that will be hard hit by a carbon tax.  An industry that is the foundation of our economy.

A carbon tax will put agriculture at a competitive disadvantage.

The additional costs of a carbon tax won’t be borne by our competitors who are not pursuing similar taxation programs.

Ottawa’s forced carbon tax will hit producers with $10 to $12 per acre in additional costs.  For a farm of 2500 acres, that’s an increase in of up to $30,000 more every year.  $30,000 that producers cannot simply pass on to customers when they still need to purchase fertilizer, feed, and fuel.  Some producers must move their crops up to 1900 kms or more just to reach an export terminal; every step of the supply chain will have additional costs that producers cannot pass along.

One of our main ag exporting competitors, Australia, has repealed their carbon tax legislation already.  The Prime Minister of Australia said the carbon tax was $9 billion handbrake on Australia’s economy.  France is considering repealing their carbon tax.

The U.S. has no plans to implement a national carbon tax. Nor will Russia, or Belarus or Kazakhstan.

A carbon tax will undermine our competitiveness in our international markets.  It is that simple.

We now have five canola crush facilities in our province and the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association indicate the annual cost to our industry from Ottawa’s carbon tax would be in the neighborhood of $15 million.

A few hours south of here, across the border, there will be no carbon tax adding those kinds of extra costs.

Where do you think companies will choose to invest?  Where would you invest your money?

But a carbon tax is not only damaging to the economy.

Not only does it threaten jobs and add costs for Saskatchewan families.

A carbon tax is an ineffective tool in reaching its stated goal of reducing emissions.  British Columbia has a carbon tax and since they’ve brought it in emissions have risen.

There are better options.

The Premier outlined those options in the province’s climate plan last month.

A focus on innovation, the development of technologies here in Saskatchewan that can be exported and used globally, that is what is needed in order to actually reduce carbon emissions.

Our commitment to research and innovation has produced industry-leading equipment and crop varieties.

These advancements have had a significant impact on reducing GHG emissions while creating economic opportunities and thousands of jobs in western Canada.

With annual sales of $1 billion, the agriculture machinery sector is the largest component of Saskatchewan’s manufacturing.  Our top-quality farm equipment is used to improve agriculture productivity in every corner of the world including, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Europe, South America, Kazakhstan, the Middle East and Africa.

Our action plan includes ongoing support for the Crop Development Centre and the Global Institute for Food Security and investments in the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence.  These are world-class organizations working to develop solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers adapt to a changing climate.  Over the past five years we have invested over $28 million into developing real solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help farmers adapt to a changing climate.

Instead of taxing locally we need to think globally.

Our government, in collaboration with industry, has invested nearly $9.5 million into research on greenhouse gas mitigation and measurement through the Agriculture Development Fund.

We will continue to be a strong supporter of the development, commercialization and adoption of technologies that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Producers can be very proud of the fact that, thanks to their care, our environment will remain healthy for future generations.

And our province can be confident that we will continue to work in support of a climate change plan that will lead to long-term, sustainable results.

A plan that allows our farmers and ranchers to continue to produce high quality food for a growing global population.

We need you to stand with us and fight this devastating carbon tax that will hurt the economy you have worked so hard to grow.

Lyle Stewart is the MLA for Lumsden-Morse, Minister for Agriculture, and a rancher and farmer near Pense

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