The Current

Carbon tax will turn sustainability efforts into a fight for bottom line, warns farmer

The federal government's carbon tax comes into effect Monday in the four provinces that have not yet introduced their own carbon pricing scheme. Depending on who you are and where you live, it's either a triumph for the environment, or bad news for your bottom line.

Farmers need a profit margin to be able to adapt, says Megz Reynolds

Megz Reynolds and her family on their farm near Kyle, Sask. Reynolds said she is already making an effort to make her business more sustainable, but the new carbon tax could undermine that. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Read Story Transcript

A farmer has warned that the federal government's new carbon tax could inadvertently limit her ability to make her business more sustainable.

"We're constantly … pushing to be more innovative, but in order to do that, I need to have margins in my business, where I can afford to keep bringing new technology and new ideas into my operation," said Megz Reynolds, a grain farmer near Kyle, Sask., who is currently seeking the Conservative nomination for the Cypress Hills-Grasslands riding in the upcoming federal election.

"If I'm taxed to the point where I do not have a profit margin, then my sustainability is going to get cut, because I'm suddenly going to start looking after my bottom line," she told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

The federal government's carbon tax comes into effect Monday, introducing a levy of $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The change affects Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, where provincial governments have resisted any sort of carbon pricing scheme. In provinces where schemes already exist, there will be no change.

The measure is designed to lower the country's carbon emissions so Canada can meet the reduction targets it agreed to at the Paris climate summit. However opponents, along with the federal Conservative party, fear it will be economically damaging and far too punitive for consumers and small businesses.

Reynolds said that the fertilizer she uses is formulated based on samples of her own soil, so that it promotes the most growth for the least amount spread. She also uses technology to ensure that the vehicles spreading that fertilizer aren't overlapping on ground already covered, which could waste fuel as a result.

Her business is always considering new measures, such as "new equipment, that maybe has stronger emission protocols, or … a new seed that is going to require less fertilizer," she added.

"All of these things cost money, and in order to do that I need to have a margin that allows me to adapt," said Reynolds.

Cathy Orlando said that climate instability itself is a threat to the farming system. (Erik White/CBC )

Cathy Orlando, an environmentalist from Sudbury, Ont., welcomed the carbon tax as a step down "a path that will protect my three daughters and all children and all life from climate breakdown."

While farmers do need to be supported, climate instability itself is a threat to the farming system, said Orlando, the international outreach manager and Canadian director of the Citizens' Climate Lobby.

"I think we need to start looking at policies that do support that fantastic work that Megz [Reynolds] is doing, but we also need to cut emissions."

    Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

    With files from CBC News. Produced by Jessica Linzey, Danielle Carr and Julianne Hazlewood.


    • An earlier version of this story did not mention that Megz Reynolds is currently seeking the Conservative nomination in the Cypress Hills—Grasslands riding for the upcoming federal election.
      Apr 01, 2019 7:03 PM ET