Cattle ranchers warn Alberta's carbon tax will make it tougher to compete

Cattle ranchers say they're concerned Alberta's carbon tax will make it harder for them to compete with producers from the U.S. and other Canadian provinces.

Proper cattle management can help meet carbon reduction goals, beef producers say

Beef producers are concerned rising prices on the farm will make it a struggle to be competitive when it comes to getting their beef onto supermarket shelves. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)

Alberta's cattle ranchers say they're concerned the carbon tax will make it harder for them to compete with producers from the United States and other Canadian provinces.

"We have concerns about the impact on our competitiveness when we're paying levies here — and some of our competitors in other provinces and other countries aren't paying those levies," said the executive director of Alberta Beef Producers, Rich Smith.

The issue of the tax — set to take effect in the new year — was raised at the beef industry's annual general meeting in Calgary this week.

While farm fuels used in fields are exempt from the carbon levy, producers are expecting costs for electricity, transportation and heating to go up when the tax kicks in.

Producers are hoping the province will recognize how proper cattle management can help meet carbon reduction goals.

Rich Smith, the executive director of Alberta Beef Producers, says the industry has been working for 20 years to reduce methane emissions through more efficient production. (Colin Hall/CBC)

"We have the benefit in our industry of sequestering large amounts of carbon and grasslands. So the grasslands that we use in our industry help on that side of the greenhouse gas emissions," said Smith.

The industry is suggesting that some of the proceeds from the carbon tax go to incentives to continue sequestering carbon in Alberta's grasslands, as well as investment in research and innovation.

Investing in grasslands

"Grasslands are threatened by conversion to urban development, industrial development, and even conversion to crop land. So we're looking for investments to help us maintain and enhance the grasslands that we have in this province," he said. 

Producers are also focused on reducing methane emissions through more efficient production, said Smith.

"Seventy per cent of the methane in Alberta comes from the energy industry, but there's still a significant amount produced by cattle, and we've worked hard over the last 20 years to reduce those emissions, and we're constantly trying to improve efficiency."