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Grain dryer program unveiled but carbon tax exemption still lauded

MVT grain dryer
The provincial government says the Efficient Grain Dryer Program helps farmers stay competitive after tough year. MP Earl Dreeshen says more could be done. Photo courtesy of the Alberta government

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY- RED DEER COUNTY – A new $2-million program providing funds to improve grain drying for Alberta farms will help producers remain competitive, say officials.

The Efficient Grain Dryer Program (EGDP) is funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and will help cover costs for eligible grain dryer improvements for farmers in Alberta, officials announced last week.

Under the EGDP eligible applicants will be able to choose equipment geared to the volume and size of their respective businesses and improve energy efficiency within those operations.

Eligible activities under the program include grain dryer and grain drying system components that significantly improve energy efficiency above standard configuration, and those components can be factory options on new equipment or retrofits installed on existing equipment, officials said.

Eligible expenses under the new program will be cost-shared, with 50 per cent funding from the grant and 50 per cent funding from the applicant.

Those eligible costs include enclosed dryer roof or enclosed dryer top cover, automatic moisture-based controllers, high-efficiency burners, variable speed drivers for electric motors, grain dryer PTO to electric motor conversion, insulated plenums, exhaust air recirculation systems, heat exchangers, gravity-fill roofs, electric or gas sub-meters on dryers, and temperature and moisture monitoring cables for in-bin drying systems.

Costs not eligible under the program include supplemental bin heaters, grain elevators and conveyors, grain legs or grain pumps, hopper bins, conversion from propane to natural gas, standard grain dryer configurations, additional tiers, or installation and labour costs.

A five-year, $3-billion initiative involving federal, provincial and territorial governments, the CAP is designed to support Canada's agri-food and agri-products sectors.

Retroactive to April 1, 2018, the EGDP will accommodate close to 100 applicants who have been waiting since that time and for those who may not have known about the program and purchased eligible equipment in the last two years, officials said.

Devin Dreeshen is Alberta’s minister of agriculture.

“This new program will help farmers remain competitive and keep producing the best high quality food in the world,” said Dreeshen.

“Last harvest was one of the toughest for Alberta farmers. Poor weather, trade irritants, rail strikes and a carbon tax have hurt farmers through no fault of their own.”

Earl Dreeshen is the MP for Red Deer-Mountain View. He spoke briefly about the program during an appearance before Olds council recently.

“The program does talk about enhancements that one can make with the grain drying system,” said Dreeshen. “I think one of the major concerns that people do have is the fact they are using propane and natural gas but that it’s being taxed. The costs associated with that are in the millions of dollars.

“They are looking at the issue and they are trying to say here is perhaps a way that will help. But quite frankly I still believe that paying attention to the added costs that there are as far as the carbon tax is concerned would be more efficient.

“We don’t have an opportunity as farmers to pass those costs on nor do we have the ability when we are moving our grain.”

About 10 per cent of crops across Alberta, and seven per cent in this region, were left in the fields to be harvested in spring 2020, according to the final Alberta Crop Report dated Dec. 3, 2019.

Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau said the EGDP should help hard-pressed producers.

“We all know how hard 2019 was for many farmers, and that weather is increasingly unpredictable,” said Bibeau. “Our government is listening and finding solutions for farmers.”

Meanwhile, MP Dreeshen said he would be pushing in Parliament for more support for agricultural producers.

“There will be a lot of discussion on actually paying attention to the entire industry and the way the carbon tax affects it,” said Dreeshen.

During his recent stopover in the district, Dreeshen planned to visit some area farms, "celebrating this industry that does so much and let them know that someone is on their side.”

Meanwhile, the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) has made another call for a full exemption for fuel used on Canadian farms from the carbon tax.

“These costs are adding up and Canada’s grain farmers cannot continue to pay the price for inaction,” said GGC chairman Jeff Nielsen, an Olds-area farmer. “A complete exemption of all fuels used on the farm is what we need to avoid these crises in the future and provide farmers with the resources to continue doing what we do best.”

The GGC represents more than 65,000 producers nationwide.

- With files from Doug Collie.

Dan Singleton

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