Southern Alberta scientist advocates for carbon tax exemption on farm grain drying

Flour mill and wheat.

A leading southern Alberta scientist, Dr. Chandra Singh, has called for urgent action regarding the use of fossil-fuel powered grain dryers in agriculture. Dr. Singh, Lethbridge College’s senior research chair in Agricultural Engineering and Technology, emphasized the necessity of these dryers for farmers, particularly in the absence of clean technology alternatives. The Senate is set to resume deliberations on Bill C-234, which aims to exempt the federal carbon tax from on-farm grain drying, after discussions were halted on November 9.

Bill C-234 seeks to amend the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act by extending carbon tax exemptions on gasoline and diesel to include propane and natural gas used for drying grain and for heating or cooling barns and livestock buildings. Dr. Singh, recognizing the impact of global warming, stated that farmers currently lack viable alternatives to these greenhouse-gas emitting dryers. He stressed the importance of these dryers in preventing crop loss and maintaining Canada’s role as a major grain exporter.

During a virtual presentation to the Senate’s standing committee on agriculture and forestry last month, Dr. Singh argued that the carbon footprint resulting from crop loss due to inadequate drying would far exceed that of using fossil-fuel powered dryers. He noted that while southern Alberta benefits from an early seeding and drying season, farmers in northwestern Alberta’s Peace region rely heavily on high-temperature dryers due to their later seeding and harvesting schedules. With some farms in this region spanning 4,000 to 8,000 hectares, the necessity for efficient grain drying becomes even more critical.

Dr. Singh estimated that it might take up to a decade before clean technology for drying grain on farms becomes available. He likened the current technological limitations in agriculture to the challenges faced in scaling green technology for larger vehicles as opposed to cars. However, Dr. Singh pointed out that current technologies, such as sensors and automated climate control in grain storage facilities, can improve energy efficiency in drying grain by up to 30 percent.

Highlighting the financial burden of adopting these technologies, Dr. Singh advocated for subsidies to assist farmers in implementing them. The debate over Bill C-234 and the broader issue of carbon tax exemptions for on-farm grain drying continues to be a significant point of discussion in the agricultural sector, reflecting the ongoing challenge of balancing environmental concerns with practical farming needs.

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