New federal grain dryer grant program about to launch

Indications are the new $50-million program will look a lot like one launched in Alberta last year

A grain dryer grant program launched in Alberta last year proved popular, using up all of its $2-million funding allotment. Now Ottawa is rolling out a $50-million federal version.
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Farmers can start submitting applications this month for a federal program that will cover half of the cost of more energy-efficient grain dryers.

Ottawa has set aside $50 million for the so-called “adoption stream” of its $166-million Agricultural Clean Technology Program. Another $10 million will be offered for “powering farms with clean energy and moving off diesel.”

“In the face of this new climate reality and the expectations of Canadian and foreign consumers who want to know that their food has been sustainably produced, we must double down on our efforts, particularly by investing in the development and adoption of energy-efficient technologies,” federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a release.

The government didn’t release an applicant guide with detailed specifics (it is supposed to be available online later this month) but the grain dryer projects must be worth at least $50,000. (A non-profit, such as a co-op, can receive federal funding for up to 75 per cent of the cost.) However, government officials have said retrofitting of old dryers will be eligible as will be dryers fuelled by biomass if — like all projects under the adoption stream — they can “meaningfully reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.”

Last year, Alberta and Ottawa rolled out the Efficient Grain Dryer Program that covered half the costs of either new dryers or retrofits such as high-efficiency burners, heat exchangers, exhaust air recirculation and other upgrades that would improve energy efficiency. That program, which had $2 million in funding available, “is now temporarily suspended, and is not accepting new applications until further funding is available,” the provincial government’s website says.

Grain drying became a flashpoint in the debate over the carbon tax, particularly after the wet fall of 2019 when a large portion of the grain harvest required drying. The carbon tax, currently at $40 per tonne, will hit $170 per tonne by 2030 and will threaten the competitiveness of Prairie farmers, say many farm groups, including the big four crop commissions in Alberta. The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan says a $170-per-tonne carbon tax would up the cost of growing wheat by $12.50 an acre (mostly for trucking, rail freight, and grain drying).

The Agricultural Clean Technology Program also aims to foster the development and adoption of clean technologies that reduce emissions. A separate “research and innovation stream” will pay half the costs (up to $2 million) of researching, creating and commercializing clean tech for agriculture.

“Helping the sector adopt clean technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions is a key part of our plan to build a healthy environment and a healthy economy for all,” Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in the release.

Details on the $10 million for “moving off diesel” also haven’t been released. In an appearance before the House ag committee last month, a senior AgCanada official was asked about specifics and he replied funding would be available for “a number of areas.”

The government says the ag sector has generated about 10 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. However, it also said “agricultural production in Canada has doubled over the last 22 years while emissions have remained relatively stable.”

To find out more, Google “Agricultural Clean Technology Program adoption” and click on the Agriculture Canada link for the adoption stream.

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