Our agriculture industry accounts for almost 7% of our total GDP. It is more vital to our economy than many might realize. We are the fifth largest exporter of agriculture in the world. The agri-food and agriculture industry employs 2.3 million Canadians. That's one in eight jobs in Canada. We are one of the world's largest producers of flax seed, canola, pulses and oats.
While the farmers' work has been unwavering, they have faced many challenges, known colloquially in August and the autumn of 2019 as the harvest from hell. They've also faced some global trade wars that have reduced their markets. In addition to that, they've been fighting the pandemic along with all of us. Some of those barriers were unpreventable. However, one that is very controllable and where we can help Canadians is that they currently bear an inequitable share of the burden of the carbon tax.
The greenhouse gas pollution pricing currently allows qualifying farmers an exemption on certain farm fuels such as gasoline and diesel; however, it fails to extend that exemption to other fuels such as natural gas and propane. This is challenging on many different fronts, as farmers quite often don't have other options and their only option for their particular industrial equipment may be natural gas and propane.
The science says that natural gas and propane are often cleaner fuels than diesel or gasoline. Why would we not include them in this exemption? Farmers, after all, are stewards of our land and, along with our indigenous people, were some of the first environmentalists standing up for the land and also for the animals and plants located on their properties.
Farmers have been leaders in environmental technologies. They've led with such technologies as no-till to prevent soil erosion, or precision-led, satellite-led agriculture that reduces the use of fossil fuels. In fact, the Canadian agriculture industry has already achieved net zero decades ahead of many other industries.
Beyond the fact that the carbon tax presents a significant cost to our farmers, it has tremendous pricing barriers for our farmers as well. Many times our farmers are price-takers, and so, unlike other industries, they cannot simply push the carbon tax on to the consumers. They absorb it themselves, which can be a make or break for many of them, making them uncompetitive in some cases.
We've seen the result of higher taxation on farmers as farm debt has doubled in the last 20 years. Farmers are struggling now. Farmers want to reinvest in our communities, to spend money at the feed stores, the tractor dealerships and local restaurants to keep the rural economies flowing through these very difficult times. Rural Canada needs more support, not more taxes.
Our farmers deserve a break. Bill C-206 aims to fix what seems to me, to put it gently, an oversight in the initial carbon tax legislation. By expanding the farmers' exemption from the carbon tax we are securing their continued innovation in environmental protection, the protection of Canada's food supply, the livelihood of farmers.
What may seem like an insignificant amount of money to the government may very well be make or break for many of our farmers. I have seen carbon tax bills of tens of thousands of dollars. This is having a tremendous impact on our farmers across Canada.
In closing, Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the farmers for everything they do. Conservatives will continue to advocate for farmers and common sense solutions. I hope to see, this time, not just all parties, but all members support Bill C-206.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions.