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It was time to warm up around the fire with a weiner roast after sleigh rides at Lionel Story Farm near Netherhill, Sask., Dec. 30. | PAULA LARSEN PHOTO




Greenhouse sector gets carbon rebate

The current schedule of fees was implemented in 2013-14 and is due to expire at the end of the 2017-18 crop year. A new fee schedule will be implemented at that time to cover 2018-23. “We made commitments to our stakeholders that we would review our fees every five years, and we are doing that in relatively short order,” Gosselin said. “In addition to that, the CGC is examining potential options to use the accumulated surplus and that will include an assessment of stakeholders’ views on the various possibilities.” Gosselin said upcoming consultations will include discussions on potential user fee reductions and methods of allocating the current CGC surplus. He said the surplus is the result of high grain volumes and lowerthan-expected expenses on programs financed through user fees. The wheat growers association said it hopes grain growers will use its online petition to request an immediate reduction in user fees and a refund of the surplus. “It’s been a tough year with the nasty weather we’ve had and lower commodity prices, so a fee reduction and refund will go a long way to help growers,” said Graeme Manness, an association director who farms near Domain, Man. “And it is growers’ money, that’s why we’re asking our farming colleagues to join with us in calling for the reduction and refund of our hard-earned dollars back to us at the farmgate.”

B.C. operators receive an 80 percent rebate, which may have influenced the Alberta government’s decision BY BARB GLEN LETHBRIDGE BUREAU

Alberta’s greenhouse industry will get relief from the newly implemented provincial carbon levy. It’s good news for growers who were facing a $1 per gigajoule increase on natural gas this year and another 50 cents per gigajoule increase in 2018. The government announced Dec. 31 that greenhouse growers will be able to recoup up to 80 percent of the carbon levy on natural gas. For Albert Cramer, vice-chair of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association and operator of two large vegetable-growing greenhouses in the Medicine Hat area, the rebate is a huge relief on all fronts. “Natural gas is our biggest fuel,” he said, speaking of all Alberta greenhouses. “It’s one of our biggest expenses, besides labour, so it’s a big deal.” Cramer said the industry did some intense lobbying in an effort to obtain a rebate, and the government listened. “They’ve been very responsive,” he said. “I’m going to say I was surprised. I don’t like to sound negative, but sometimes we feel government is never listening. We were very

pleasantly surprised.” British Columbia’s greenhouse industry is the primary competition for Alberta growers, and B.C. operators receive an 80 percent rebate on the carbon levy there. Alberta’s carbon reduction plan was based in part on the B.C. version, and Cramer said he thinks that helped make the case. “It’s a two year (rebate) program that they set out, so they did put a limit on it,” he said.


“What we as an industry are going to do is continue to work with the government.” The carbon levy is part of the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan, which imposes a $20 per tonne levy on all fuel that emits greenhouse gases. That figure rises to $30 per tonne in 2018. As of Jan. 1, there is a 4.49 cents per litre levy on gas, 5.35 cents per

litre on diesel, 3.08 cents per litre on propane and $1.011 per gigajoule on natural gas. Marked farm fuels are exempt. Low and middle-income households will receive full or partial rebates on the levy, according to the government plan. Money collected is to be reinvested in projects to diversify the economy and reduce “carbon pollution,” the government said. Rallies held in various cities over the past few months called on the NDP government to delay implementation of the climate plan and put it to a referendum. That did not occur, and the plan was implemented Jan. 1. Several agricultural commodity groups have spoken against the carbon tax amid concerns it will increase input costs for farmers on everything from fertilizer to transport. Cramer acknowledged that other sectors have sought relief from the tax. “The government is in a tough spot,” he said. “Everybody’s asking for a rebate. They did look at our industry, and I think it’s because it’s local food and now with the industry, the way it’s going with year-round production, it’s very high costs.” Electricity is one of those costs, and it isn’t yet known how the carbon tax will affect electrical rates.

At Cramer’s Big Marble Farms, which produces vegetables year round, electricity costs are even higher than natural gas heating costs. Huge increase Without a rebate, the carbon tax would have increased natural gas costs by $300,000 for Big Marble in the first year of implementation. The government has also developed programs to help greenhouse growers increase their energy efficiency. “That’s an ongoing thing. We’ll continue to work with the government and try to of course extend that program,” Cramer said. Government plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by October 2018 is another worry for greenhouse operators, he added. “The numbers get really big when you start to deal with minimum wage (and the) carbon tax,” he said. “It was something that was hitting us, both at the same time, so we had to react to try to get the government to understand our industry and that there’s not that much profit in this industry to be able to absorb that just in one shot.”

The western producer january 12, 2017  
The western producer january 12, 2017