Now that there’s certainty on the future of the HST, B.C. ranchers, including those from the Cariboo, are seeking an exemption from paying the province’s carbon tax.
According to a B.C. Cattlemen’s Association press release, cattle producers voted unanimously in June in favour of seeking a full exemption from the carbon tax for farm fuel.
In May, the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association struck a similar tone when it passed a resolution requesting a rebate for farmers on the carbon tax independent of the future of the HST.
The HST’s defeat last week and return to the PST/GST, says the B.C. Cattlemen’s association, reduces ranchers’ cash flow further.
Duncan Barnett, president of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association, says ranchers have been unhappy with the carbon tax for some time and surmises that the industry may have decided it was reasonable in light of the benefits it experienced under the HST regime; however, now that that’s gone all bets are off.
“From an agricultural perspective we haven’t seen any benefits from the carbon tax. The government hasn’t come out with any programs that allow ranchers to reduce their fuel consumption or move to higher efficiency engines or get around the need to use fuel,” he says.
The local association has asked the government for recognition of some of the benefits ranching provides society, including considering the amount of carbon that is sequestered through the growth of forage as well as ranchers contribution to “biodiversity, clean water and aesthetically pleasing landscapes.”
Duncan says the local organization is asking government to recognize the benefits of farming for the environment through the establishment of some sort of credit system and rebate or to scrap the tax for the industry.
“The way it is right now it’s just a cost burden we can’t afford, especially compared to Alberta that doesn’t have such a tax.”
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett thinks many businesses will be hurt by the demise of the HST and the return to the PST/GST but she believes it could be particularly tough on those in the farming sector given the amount of fuel they consume in order to bring their crops to market.
“Mostly the ranching community is affected the hardest because the bottom line for ranchers is tough,” she said.
Donna says this is a concern she’s heard while travelling the province as part of the government’s rural caucus.
Prior to the rejection of the HST Barnett says an exemption from the carbon tax was a request made by farmers — but not a common one.
“When the HST came it offset the cost of the carbon tax. They were still talking a bit about it but the HST helped them offset other costs. So now, of course, once all the paperwork is done and we revert to the old system of course it will be a great burden on them again.”
Donna says this is a concern she will raise with government.
The carbon tax is a tax paid on fossil fuels — including farm fuel — purchased in the province. Ranchers are not able to claim the cost of the tax. As of July 1, 2011, the tax rate on gasoline is 5.56 cents per litre and on diesel 6.39 cents per litre. The rate is set by the amount of carbon in the fuel.
A representative from the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association was not available to comment on this story by press time.