Manitoba Ag Days may mark a beginning to the agriculture year ahead, but the hangover of 2019 is still firmly in place for the province’s farmers. A rough harvest is being made worse by the new carbon tax added to grain drying fuel bills, canola from two main exporters (one Winnipeg-based) is still blocked from moving into China, and the spectre of African swine fever still looms large on the province’s hog industry.
Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development Blaine Pedersen says that all of these issues and more are in the government’s sights. Recently, the Conservative government released details surrounding its plan for a carbon tax, one where dryer fuel would be exempt, but that doesn’t help those now, he says.
Pedersen has met with the federal minister of agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau and heard that she needs solid numbers on the cost of the carbon tax on farmers and “needs to be convinced” that this is a critical issue for farmers — drying grain, especially in a wet or late harvest is not optional. Farmers must dry grain or risk all of it spoiling.
The carbon tax and its cost is an immediate problem, but he adds that there needs to be better understanding at the federal level of how farming is actually capturing carbon and what advancements farmers have made to decrease their carbon footprint.
On the issue of canola and pork exports, Pedersen adds that he recently had a good meeting with the new Canadian Ambassador to China, Dominic Barton. “African swine fever is a huge concern to us. We are very actively working with the industry in order to be able to keep those markets going, and make sure they’re aware that if it came to Canada or Manitoba that we can keep those markets open,” he says.
Barton is “cautiously optimist” on the canola file the blocked shipment can be worked out, Pedersen says.
Also on the radar is Manitoba’s education property tax. “With land price acceleration, it’s become a disproportionate tax on-farm and rural areas,” he says, saying the government does plan to address this and eventually eliminate it, but over 10 years.