Heather Wright/The Independent
Local grain farmers are enlisting the help of the provincial government to convince the federal government to change its clean fuel standard.
The feds are drafting the regulation and is asking for public input. Grain Farmer of Ontario local director Emery Huszka says it will make it tough for grain farmers to sell to local ethanol plants.
The new regulations propose farmers could only sell to the specialized market by meeting new criteria which includes not cutting down more than 1.2 acres of trees after January, having a 30 meter (100 foot) buffer strip near streams and lakes, and having the individual farm certification completed.
Huszka recently brought Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton to his farms near Florence to help him understand what that would mean for him. The province would eventually be responsible for enforcing the new federal rules.
Huszka gives the example of the large number of dead trees caused by the emerald ash bore in the region. “If I cleaned up a two-and-a-half acre chunk…I would be disallowed from selling corn to the ethanol plant,” he tells The Independent.
“How do you penalize a farmer for doing a practical thing on the land they own?”
Huszka also wanted to show McNaughton how much land could be eaten up if there would have to be a 100-foot buffer zone along waterways. “See all that land, I’m not able to use it to produce corn anymore,” he told the MPP.
“For some farms, they could have eight to 10 per cent of their ground affected.”
Grain Farmer officials say the fed’s bid to make farmers greener doesn’t take into account the changes in the industry. “Farmers today already use less land to grow more,” said Markus Haerle, Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario.
In 30 years, he says, farmers have increased land-use efficiency by 39 per cent which has reduced the impact on the environment in corn production for example by 45 per cent.
And he says, ethanol, which cuts carbon emissions by about 40 per cent, is made with Ontario corn. Haerle and Huszka say the proposed standard wouldn’t apply to US growers and would mean US grain would be increasingly used in ethanol plants like the one in Lambton County.
That’s ironic says Haerle since the US Environmental Protection Agency recognizes Canadian farm practices as sustainable.
Huszka says farmers want to protect the land but he says “there is a better way to do it than this nitwit approach,” adding the Liberal government is looking at this “ideologically…above any practicality.
“If the name of the game is to improve the use of agricultural land, do it in a way that makes sense.”
Huszka’s hope after talking with the local MPP is that the provincial government will push back against the standard and the damage farmers believe it will cause. “The province has been on the right track in terms of agriculture and we appreciate them advocating for us on to the feds on the changes that need to be made,” he says.
The federal bill is now in the publishing stage, Huszka says, which means it is inching toward approval. “The further down the pipe this gets, the more dangerous it is.”