Cap and trade system can work for farmers (2015)

By Don McCabe, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

The Ontario government believes climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing future generations. This past week Premier Wynne announced Ontario will pursue the establishment of a cap and trade system to address climate change by limiting sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) prefers the cap and trade system as an effective and fair way to manage greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, while recognizing that agriculture already plays an important role reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The OFA will work with government to develop a workable solution recognizing agriculture’s role in providing offsets to the market. The cap and trade principle chosen by the Ontario government needs the addition of offsets to provide a strong cost effective, environmentally proven solution for society.

The new cap and trade system will establish a cap on the level of greenhouse gas emissions allowed by certain sectors of the economy. The system will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by allowing industries to reduce their emissions through applying new technologies. When that is not feasible for that company, theoretically, carbon credits bought from a competitor can meet their regulatory compliance or the company could access offset credits from outside sources. These companies are all point source polluters.

Agriculture is a solution provider here. Agriculture can offer offset credits. How can this be possible as agriculture is not a point source polluter? Carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide are greenhouse gases in the agriculture system. Farmers can manage their businesses to achieve emission reductions of these gases while furthering profitability to their operation. For example, soil is a natural carbon sink.  Organic matter in soil is captured carbon. The natural sequestering of carbon that happens in the soil by use of minimal to no-till practices means the agriculture industry is part of the solution to Ontario’s challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, manure and nitrogen management, cattle feeding efficiencies, bioproduct production, etc. are all opportunities to provide offset carbon credits. When these ag offset carbon credits are aggregated together, just like other farmer commodities of wheat, milk, corn, eggs, etc. are currently, point source polluters in need are buyers.

The OFA sees potential for a new modest revenue stream for Ontario farmers in the carbon credit trading market. Under a carbon tax system, like that in British Columbia, added costs are the result to farm operations. With a cap and trade system recognizing offsets, farmers would have the opportunity to voluntarily be part of a climate change solution while still providing food, fibre, fuel, energy, improved soil quality, improved water quality, and biodiversity for all of society. Design ahead is the key.

Agriculture experiences climate change like no other industry. Farming does produce greenhouse gas emissions. With farmer’s constant improvement and adoption of innovation, many practices reduce or remove greenhouse gases such as no-till cropping, fuel-efficient equipment, methane digesters and more efficient feeding rations. With increasing human populations, sustainability demands and agriculture’s role as an economic driver, the need to continue this progress is paramount. Currently, agriculture is already 6% below 1990 emission levels for the agricultural sector, according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. With proper policy applied to the cap and trade principle now announced, Ontario farmers will be double or triple the solution in the future.

The OFA will ensure the implications and opportunities of this emerging policy is heard by government as the final details of this new system are ironed out to ensure agriculture is represented fairly.

For more information, contact:

Don McCabe
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Dave Downie says on April 17, 2015 at 4:02 PM

Sure there is climate change. It's called weather! Carbon dioxide is natural: humans breathe it out and trees breathe it in. Shame on the Wynne government for pushing through unneeded regulations against common sense and industry. It's nothing but a greedy tax grab!!!!

Pete Bunnik says on April 17, 2015 at 4:11 PM

Cap and trade is just another scam by the liberal government. They are not doing it for the environment, its income for them in the way of tax. The money they collect goes into their general revenue fund. It should go into a fund for environmental projects.

roger fryer says on April 17, 2015 at 6:50 PM

it looks like O F A is letting the fox into the chicken house no good can come from that thank you very much

Paul Pospisil says on April 17, 2015 at 8:09 PM

There's some pretty wild statements being made here with very little fact. You might consider doing some basic arithmetic to determine if the cost of "cleaner" farming based on new technologies will in fact be paid for by the sale of carbon credits. That's without even considering the fact that allowing a polluter to buy offsets from a non-polluter achieves zip, zero, as the sum of the pollution remains the same. Its blowing smoke to believe that buying the right to continue polluting is beneficial to anyone, other than the tax collector who will collect more.

Frank Dwyer says on April 18, 2015 at 5:31 AM

This position demonstrates a level of naivety that I find shocking. What a stretch to believe that this will become a revenue stream for farmers and not an increase in fuel and other prices and a new tax on farming activities. I'm looking at getting my FBR from one of the other two organizations.

Rene Juraschka says on April 18, 2015 at 2:40 PM

You have totally failed to address the large segment of agriculture that produces horticultural and floricultural crops in greenhouse environments. What do we not count when OFA thinks about agricultural commodities? Perhaps we should not be members of the OFA!!!

Dave Linton says on April 20, 2015 at 12:26 PM

This reminds me that the OFA once thought the Green Energy Act was a good hydro rates have tripled and it's largely due to the GEA. This Carbon Tax looks another looser to me...just a tax grab...hang onto your wallet!

Joe Gorski says on April 20, 2015 at 9:30 PM

The Premier Wynne needs a lesson in farming. The Liberal government should be teaching farmers through Ag Programs how to bring greenhouse gases, aka carbon, aka organic matter back into the soil from the atmosphere. 60 years ago our soils had 5 - 7% organic matter (carbon). Today we have 2 - 3% organic matter (carbon) or less. Where is it? Up in the atmosphere. For every 1% organic matter we put back into the soils we reduce greenhouse gases by bringing 10 tons of carbon, from the atmosphere, per acre, back into the soil. Building organic matter (carbon) through cover cropping and no till farming is key to greenhouse gas reduction. Not Taxation. Wake up Premier Wynne.

Donna Lunn says on April 21, 2015 at 4:36 PM

As usual the Ontario Government continues to grab resources from the rural area to offset the large GTA. OFA has a big job to try and protect agriculture from these policy decisions. Thank you for doing that.. our farm is too busy to keep up with all the political documents! Keep up the good work.

Dave Simser says on April 24, 2015 at 9:15 PM

I do not see how a large industry that pollutes the air with co2 and buys credits to continue to pollute the air is reducing the effect of greenhouse gases.It looks like the government of the day is the winner by collecting money the industry pays for the credits.The air is not going to get any cleaner if the polluter is allowed to keep on polluting.I sure hope OFA will rethink it's position on the idea of cap and trade.

robert w johnston says on April 28, 2015 at 8:25 AM

co2 is not a pollutant!. the largest farm organization in the u.s., the american farm bureau federation,with 6 million members does not support a carbon tax, or a cap and trade. sorry bout that don, you need to get some promisses from wynnie that this will not be a net drag on ag income, or ofa will have no credibility left!

robert w johnston says on June 3, 2015 at 9:22 AM

below normal temps summer 2015 for ontario and upper tier states, pedicted by the weather network. mr mcabe, where is the global warming?

Craig says on February 18, 2016 at 3:17 PM

Reading the comments on posts such as these frustrates me that people have such a lack of knowledge.... First, its a cap and trade not a carbon tax - get it right people theres a big difference. Second -"below normal temps summer 2015 for ontario and upper tier states... where is the global warming" - robert w johnston - do you realize how ridiculous you sound... 1 its climate change not warming - this means that the average GLOBAL temperature is rising, and in different places there will be increases and decreases. being where we are geographically we will not notice too much of a change it will be more gradual. so yes there are going to be cooler than normal summers, and warmer then normal winters, and the opposite. Yes, that makes sense, but take a wider perception... the world is not Ontario only... Climate change is happening and if you're too ignorant to say "well, this winters been cold, no such thing as global warming" then you really really badly need to go back to high school and finish your grade 12. 97% of all professional scientist acknowledge that climate change is happening and we (humans) are the cause. Lastly, in regards to this article... I find it hard to believe that a cap and trade will benefit all farmers. yes perhaps some of the agricultural farmers that don't use a lot of pesticides (ya right) and no tilling, sure. But, livestock farmers, beef, milk, pork, goat/sheep, watch out - the amount of greenhouse gas emissions these animals put off (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) is more than the transportation sector. I.E. unless the gov makes specific allowances you will be paying for your high emissions. thats all for now... so help me god...

robert johnston says on February 27, 2016 at 9:15 PM

craig, you have drank the cool aid from the posion chalice of the united nations, google climate depot for the cure! by the way craig, i have my grade12 and a post secondy diploma

Craig A. says on May 17, 2016 at 11:26 AM

Ontario is where we live and Ontario is not having these problems, therefore at the moment, not our problem. When countries like India and China do something drastic about their gross pollution issues, I may support some kind of reduction strategy. Until then someone needs to stop the thieves at queen's park

Hans Van Helten says on May 18, 2016 at 8:20 PM

soil is NOT a carbon sink !!!! all organic matter get converted in water vapor fertilizer and carbon by the bacteria in the soil !! you never see soil with 15% organic matter. only swamps and acid forest are carbon sinks . and that is the real science !!!!

Frank says on December 28, 2016 at 9:05 PM

Is there any rebates for the carbon tax for greenhouses growing bedding plants

Karl Landstrom says on January 3, 2017 at 8:11 AM

We now are paying $10 a ton/tonne carbon tax,we are suppost to reduce,sequester,find alternative fuels. Do any of our OFA fearless leaders know what a ton of carbon looks like???

Dominic Amann says on May 26, 2017 at 2:45 PM

Climate change is real. CO2 is a pollutant. Farming /can/ be a change agent, if we adjust our practices. Large scale monocropping, or feed lot fattening is not going to do that. Those industrial practices will be carbon sources, not sinks. Well managed no-till operations that gradually increase the amount of carbon (organic matter) in the soil can and will create CO2 credits. It is a choice - make the planet worse as we have done for generations, or try to halt the damage so our children and grandchildren have a chance to enjoy some of the things we take for granted.

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