January 15, 2016
Dear Dr. Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner,
I am writing you on behalf of the 28,000 grain and oilseed farmers that Grain Farmers of Ontario represents. We would like to request a meeting in the next couple of weeks to provide you with an overview of our industry and information about the commitment to the environment and stewardship practiced by our farmer-members.
We would also like to specifically address the comments we have seen in the media this week from your office. We firmly believe in education and collaboration. It is easy to have misconceptions – the best way to ensure that we understand your priorities for the environment and our business, as well as for you to understand our sector, is to sit down and share ideas and information.
Ontario grain and oilseed farmers grow barley, corn, oats, soybeans, and wheat and the end products made from our crops are used to feed people, provide environmentally sustainable alternatives to products traditionally produced from fossil fuels, and feed animals. The grain farming sector is a major contributor to the Ontario economy and the environment in many very positive ways. Grain farmers are stewards of both their productive and non-productive farmland. There are many wetlands and other environmentally beneficial spaces created by farmers and there are a number of ways that both farmland and farmers contribute to a sustainable Ontario environment.
I have been travelling across the province over the past week and farmers from all regions are alarmed by comments they have read in the media about coloured diesel, coming from your office. Agriculture consumes only three percent of all diesel used in Ontario. The amount of diesel used by grain farmers has steadily declined over the years as the result of improved efficiencies in farming practices (reducing machinery passes on fields) and improved fuel efficiencies in farm vehicles and machinery. The road tax exemption for coloured diesel has been in place for farmers across North America for many years, because farm machinery is not intended for use on roads. It is also important to note that Ontario grain farmers are price takers, as grain is traded on a global market – we compete directly with US farmers in the Great Lakes Basin who have significantly lower production costs.
The road tax exemption is important for Ontario grain farmers, as well as many other sectors of agriculture across the province. I look forward to discussing this, and more, with you in the near future.
Debra Conlon from our office will be in touch to schedule a meeting.
Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario