The Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) continues to press the federal government to make good on its promise to return the approximately $34 million in tariffs it collected from farmers on Russian fertilizer imports in 2022.
The Liberal government has pledged to return the money to the agriculture sector but Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau has made it clear that any compensation can’t be returned directly to farmers who paid the tariffs. GFO, however, continues to push to have the money returned to the wallets of individual farmers. It’s also asking when tariffs will be removed, and how the government will ensure access to fertilizer for the coming year and beyond.
“We’re hoping that we can resolve it with government, get the money back in the farmers’ pockets, and then kind of move forward,” said GFO chair Brendan Byrne this week when interviewed at the organization’s March Classic meeting at London, Ont.
Byrne notes GFO had hoped the issue of the tariff money would have been resolved by now, but he acknowledged that tariffs and potential supply issues will likely be an ongoing concern.
“We’ve heard good signals from the government that there’s something forthcoming, so we are hopeful. As far as a timeline, we’re not 100 per cent sure,” says Byrne. “We’re just hopeful that when it does come that the actual farmers are kept in mind because money out of a farmer’s pocket is money that could be invested not only in their operations, but also in their communities. And we just want to see that it’s a fair return to the farmers that pay that tariff.”
To further champion the cause, GFO recently commissioned a study to help illustrate the impact the fertilizer crisis has had on Ontario grain farmers. Conducted by RealAgriStudies, the results show that over half the farmers surveyed report being asked to pay a surcharge on fertilizer, which most attributed to the tariff on fertilizer. For the 2022 growing season, more than one in six farmers surveyed experienced a fertilizer supply shortage.
“It’s something that we share with government to make sure they understand that the issues that are kind of lingering from a year ago, they’re still pertinent today, because farmers are still feeling the effects of the fertilizer [issue], and they’re trying to figure out what they can do,” said Byrne. “They just want some consistency in their operations to know how to react to some of these pieces, and how to plan their crop rotations as best possible.”
Listen to RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin and GFO chair Brendan Byrne discuss the potential for a resolution to the Russian fertilizer tariff issue. (Story continues after the interview.)
Additional findings from the RealAgriStudies survey include:
- Approximately half of farmers indicated that they used less fertilizer in 2022 because of the increased price of fertilizer
- 25 per cent indicated they made changes to their crop rotation
- 25 per cent of farmers indicated they will be making changes to their 2023 crop rotation, with over half indicating a likelihood they will grow more soybeans
- 17 per cent of farmers have indicated their retailer has notified them of potential fertilizer shortages
Byrne also notes that a recent House of Commons Finance Committee pre-budget report holds some hope with recommendations for a food security program to support producers who were negatively impacted by tariffs on imported Russian fertilizer. The report calls for a special assistance program specific to the agricultural sector to mitigate the impact of inflation on the financial health of agricultural businesses.
The federal government is expected to release its next budget March 28, 2023.