"More to say soon," says Freeland, regarding fertilizer tariff impact

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After committing $115 million in tariff proceeds to Ukraine, the deputy prime minister says she’s working with the agriculture minister to “resolve the situation” regarding the cost of 35 per cent tariffs applied to fertilizer sold to farms in Eastern Canada.

Chrystia Freeland, who is also the finance minister, was asked about the fertilizer tariffs that were paid by farmers in a scrum following a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

At least $34.1 million of the $115 million committed to Ukraine earlier this week for restoring its power grid came from tariffs on Russian fertilizer imports between March 2 and June 30, according to Finance Canada.

“We think it is very appropriate to have a conversation and make an effort to acknowledge that and to support those farmers. I am working closely with the Minister of Agriculture to support her in her work to be sure that we, as a country, bear in mind the very specific interests of those farmers who, through no fault of their own, have this historic relationship,” said Freeland, referring to typical annual imports of Russian fertilizer into Eastern Canadian prior to the war in Ukraine.

“The work is ongoing, and we’ll have more to say soon,” she noted, without providing further details on potential compensation.

“It’s because of the historical trade relations before the war,” she said, responding to another question in French. “We understand that and we are working with the Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, to find a way to resolve the situation.”

Since the tariff proceeds were promised to Ukraine earlier this week, any potential funding would have to come from a separate line in the federal government’s books.

Farm groups have asked for the money to be paid directly to farmers, but it’s unclear how the government would trace which fertilizer purchases at the retail level were directly affected by the tariffs.

Previously when asked about compensating producers for the impact of the tariffs, Minister Bibeau referred to changes made to the Advance Payments Program earlier this year, as the interest-free portion was raised from $100,000 to $250,000 for 2022 and 2023. This measure was projected to cost the government $61 million when it was announced in June, but that figure has likely climbed with rising interest rates.

More to come.

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