The seed sales tax works against the lowest carbon footprint, experts and home growers say

Nicola Moore says it was the pandemic that sparked his interest in growing food.

“My parents have always had a garden all their lives,” he said. “I never put two and two until I had a family of my own. And then when we went through the pandemic, I think it was 2020, I got scared and I wasn’t sure how I would feed the family breakfast., Lunch and dinner every day.

“And, you know, grocery stores had long lines, and I wasn’t sure about that. So I thought, how can I help my family? And that was learning how to grow my own food.”

Moore grows beets, beans, carrots, cucumbers, peas, radishes, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes, both at his home in Hamilton, Ontario, and on a plot in the nearby community.

“It’s been two years of constant learning, gardening, research, and now my next level is conserving and conserving for the winter.”

Moore says savings are important. But they are also less than they could be, because both the seeds and seedlings you buy to plant your garden are subject to provincial and federal sales taxes, while food grown from the same seeds that can be imported into the Canada or transport them to cities. great distances, they are not.

“When we look at our recent statistics, it seems that the rate of gardening in Canada is higher,” said Sylvain Charlebois, scientific director of the Agri-Food Analytics Laboratory at Dalhousie University.

“People want to grow more food for different reasons. One is to be proud of the food they grow. They want to do more for themselves. They want better quality. They want to reduce the carbon footprint of our food systems. But many, many citizens also want growing food to save money “.

The tax system, says Charlebois, works against them, because while a lettuce imported from California and sold at the supermarket is not taxed with sales tax, a small lettuce grown in Canada to be planted in a vegetable garden of house is engraved.

Canada’s carbon tax may not be popular in all sectors, but it penalizes those with a larger carbon footprint, while rewarding behaviors that reduce it.

But Canada’s food sales tax regime does the opposite, offering tax benefits to those with a larger footprint, while taxing those who reduce it, creating what economists call a “perverse incentive” that it works transversally with the carbon tax.

Depending on the trucks

Canada relies heavily on fruits and vegetables imported from outside the country at considerable environmental cost.

“The carbon footprint is pretty significant,” Charlebois said. “That’s the way we feed ourselves. We take care of things.”

Canada’s climate makes it difficult to replace all food from places like California and Mexico, but Charlebois says skilled growers can time their plantations and harvest to ripen different foods at different times in spring, summer and fall.

“There’s no carbon footprint when I go to my garden and put the seeds in,” Moore said. “Imagine a truck or trucks or fleets driving from California to Ontario.”

Most Canadians rely on supermarkets and grocery stores year-round. Even in the summer months, when much of the product is from Canada, it still comes from commercial producers who use fertilizers that emit large amounts of nitrous oxide. Agriculture accounts for about one-tenth of Canada’s total emissions, and much of the food is transported by truck over long distances.

Studies have shown that foods consumed in North America travel an average of more than 1,500 km before reaching the plate.

Food inflation, shorter shelf life

Recent supply chain problems have pushed fruit and vegetable prices up 10% in one year, three times faster than hourly wage growth. Supply chain delays have also led to the lesser known phenomenon of “shelf-lation”.

“A lot of products that end up in the grocery store aren’t as fresh as they used to be,” Charlebois said. “You’ll buy onions, carrots and tomatoes a little softer than usual. And instead of having seven days to eat certain products, you only have two days. And if you don’t eat them, you have to throw it away.”

“It’s been happening more often since the start of COVID because of labor issues, COVID restrictions and things like that. Moving anything to water or land is taking longer and that leads to more waste.”

As a producer who grows plants specifically for seeds, Catherine Wallenburg has seen increasing interest in planting gardens.

Catherine Wallenburg, a producer who grows plants specifically for seeds, shows a sample of her products that are subject to sales tax in Canada. “When I started the retail business and looked at how the product worked, I was quite surprised, in fact, to discover that it was a taxable product,” he said. (CBC)

In his greenhouse in Farrellton, Quebec, he lets lettuce, kale, and other plants go to seed, and then sells and cleans them for sale with his Northern Seeds label.

“When I started the retail business and looked at how the product worked, I was quite surprised, in fact, to discover that it was a taxable product. To me, it just seems to say that it is considered a hobby to grow food., Because the product itself, once cultivated, it would not be recorded “.

At least one province, British Columbia, does not collect taxes on seeds or plants.

The federal government has abolished the sales tax in recent years on both feminine hygiene products and facial masks, but says it has no plans to change the tax regime around food.

A high threshold

“Farmers don’t pay the GST from a list of selected major items used in their farming activities, including bulk purchases of seeds used in food production,” Finance Department Adrienne Vaupshas told CBC News .

The federal seed tax only exempts farmers who buy in commercial quantities (at least 2,500 small seeds such as lettuce, or 5 kg of larger seeds such as beans or corn). “That’s a pretty high bar,” Wallenburg says. “Even some people who are producers, who are gardeners, for example, will not meet that threshold. So they may end up paying taxes for the seeds.”

Gardeners can claim these taxes at the end of the year, but Wallenburg customers do not.

“It’s a shame you’re not encouraged to grow and eat more local, and there’s really no more locality than directly from your garden.”

Many reasons to grow

Moore says he grows food for reasons that go beyond cost.

“I think involving your kids in the process is a great way to teach them from seed to produce how your food really grows. Many of our kids today will go to the grocery store, grab an apple. or a peach., and they have no idea it comes from a tree. “

Wallenburg says his customers have similar motivations: “Because it’s tasty, because it saves you money, because it’s a nice thing to do outside with kids.”

A tax system that discriminates against domestic producers may not change that equation for most, but Charlebois says the system could go beyond eliminating injustice and encouraging people to do something that is good for the environment. , for your health and even. for food security and the country’s trade balance.

“From a fiscal policy perspective, I’m not sure we’ve done a good job making sure there’s some consistency at all levels here.”

“The fascination of recent years has been to use taxes to prevent behaviors, but we’ve never really thought of taxes as a tool to empower citizens to do certain things that are desirable, like growing food, like making more food at home. “

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