Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's nice to be back here in person after two and a half years of virtual meetings and Internet connections in rural regions.
I would like to thank the committee for inviting the Agri-Food Innovation Council to speak on this issue. We spoke earlier on previous legislation that was very similar to this one.
First, I can assure the members of this committee that no one in Canada is waking up in the morning with the idea to use more carbon and pollute our atmosphere—no one, and certainly no one in our farming communities. However, the reality is that, while major improvements have been made to limit carbon emissions by the farming community in Canada, there is still reliance on fossil fuels despite the fact that there has been a huge amount of progress made.
I heard a question from one of the MPs earlier in terms of whether Canada is responsible for 1.6% share of the pollution in the world. Farming is estimated at anywhere from 8% to 10%. That's correct, but it doesn't take into account the huge amount of work that farmers do to offset pollution in the country, and that's important to note as well.
Let me be blunt, Mr. Chair. Two options exist to deal with pollution and the use of fossil fuels. First, we can penalize the faming communities and hope that, by hitting it over their head repeatedly, they magically abandon fossil fuels or polluting sources of energy. Second, we can take measures to support the farming community as it transitions to alternative fuels and less polluting sources of energy.
Imposing a carbon tax on farmers who don't have alternatives feels like we're hitting them over the head, and that's not going over well in the farming communities in this country. Whether it's grain farmers or livestock farmers—you've heard a few questions about livestock producers—the fact is that the availability of alternative fuels and sources of energy in some regions of the country is scarce, if they even exist. To the farmers who are tied to using sources of energy tied to fossil fuels, the carbon tax feels like a punishment. They were told to produce food and play a crucial part in our food security agenda, but to do so, they will be penalized. That doesn't feel like a fair policy.
The document we shared with the clerk, which hasn't been translated, proposes some solutions that will lead us toward decreased reliance on fossil fuels and better adoption of new technologies, support increased research for proof of concept on Canadian farms, fund increased scalability and provide incentive for adoption.
I heard Ms. Valdez talk about examples in various communities. There are examples throughout the country of fantastic technologies. The scalability is simply not there. It's not something you can suddenly increase to all of Canada and all of our producers. The costs are simply prohibitive in some scenes. Yes, some large farms will be able to take advantage of some of those new technologies, but then we're going to write off the family farms, which I'm not sure is something this committee wants to do.
We therefore would advise the government to reverse the trend that has seen the disappearance of extension services, because they are key to the adoption of new technologies and provide support to farmers on that front.
I would like to commend the government on developing some programs that are going in the right direction. Indeed, the government is supporting research for new technologies and is providing limited incentives for adoption, but not enough. If we are looking at an exemption here on this carbon tax, we feel it's important to go for this.
The taxing of fossil fuels is simply penalizing farmers while they have already done so much to decrease their carbon footprint. Precision agriculture, conservation tillage, improving energy efficiency in buildings, using feed that was produced in sustainable ways, conservation cropping techniques, effective manure recycling technologies to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, and grassland management are things that have been adopted on a voluntary basis, not because people were taxed to do so.
Those are only a few of the processes adopted by farmers to decrease their carbon footprint and to support their objectives towards lower GHG emissions in Canada.
To the members of this committee, there is an increasing divide in our country. Rural regions feel ostracized by urban ones. The adoption of this legislation would enable farmers to see that this Parliament recognizes their reality, values their effort and supports them.
Ladies and gentlemen, society is sufficiently divided, and we don't need to further increase the gap, especially between urban and rural regions. If you want to tax the polluting Hummer-driving urban warriors until they are forced to ride a bicycle, please fill your boots, but do recognize that farmers drive trucks because they have to. That is simply not an option. They have to heat their grains to make sure their grains are dry and can go to market. There is no choice. They heat their barns because we are in Canada, and it's cold. There is no choice, and for them to be taxed on those is of major concern for them.
My hope is that we're able to rise above partisan politics, increasingly incentivize the adoption of less polluting technologies, and avoid penalizing farmers. Let's make the decrease of reliance on fossil fuels a positive experience and create bridges between communities. Let's not divide them further.