Beef Farmers of Ontario to lobby for changes of farm property value rates

GUELPH—The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) is going to work with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and other farm organizations to lobby for all agricultural land to be changed from a 25 percent value for farm property rate to 15 percent, all relating to new assessments released by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

John McNaughton, chair of the Manitoulin Beef Farmers Association, and Manitoulin Soil and Crop Association, told the Recorder earlier this week (after a BFO annual general meeting last week), “it was a hot topic of discussion from the members and several motions coming forward from the floor on MPAC. Our local association was not the only group going looking for a moratorium on MPAC assessments, from the stack of motions that members considered.”

“It was felt that in terms of calling for a moratorium that this was overly optimistic to pull this off,” said Mr. McNaughton. “It is already a push to get actions from the government in terms of the rules and regulations we have to follow. Not all organizations were in favour of a call for a moratorium.”

“The motion that was passed was more general—to indicate strongly that we need to work with other farmer organizations to lobby to make the assessment system fairer,” added Mr. McNaughton. “We realize that we all have to work together.”

“The OFA has been working on this issue for awhile now and we had an original resolution to be considered at our annual general meeting (last) week, which was amended on the floor,” said LeaAnne Wuermli,  communications manager with BFO, last Friday. “This motion was carried at our AGM for our board of directors to receive and respond to them.”

As it was reported in February, a group of over 50 Island farmers met to discuss their concerns with the significant increases they face with the farm land value assessments through MPAC and the need for each individual farmer to put forward a request for reconsideration on their property.

Ben LeFort, a farm policy researcher for OFA, told the Recorder last Friday, “Farmers’ requests to MPAC for reconsideration had to be in by February 8. No, we don’t get numbers on how many requests have been made for reconsideration. But there is no doubt that a  lot of farmers sought reconsideration.”

Mr. LeFort noted he is expecting to be meeting with Island municipalities as a group within the next month or so on this issue. “The average increase in property assessments for farmers has been 70 percent and in some counties these increases are over 100 percent.  For instance, in North Cumberland the average increase was 125 percent.”

“I have already been in front of many municipal  councils,” stated Mr. LeFort.  “We have received a good reception, and the only solution is for municipalities to adjust the farm property tax rates, so it does not disproportionately affect farmers.” He pointed out MPAC is legislated to carry out their work in determining values.

At the BFO meeting last week, members passed the resolution on the Farm Property Tax Rate. “Whereas, MPAC released new assessments for all properties last fall; and whereas farm values saw significant increases;  therefore, be it resolved that BFO work with OFA and other general farm organizations to lobby for all agricultural land to be changed from 25 percent for 15 percent of value for farm property tax rate.”

The Manitoulin Cattleman’s Association and Manitoulin Island Soil and Crop Improvement Association earlier this year called for a moratorium on any increases in farm land value assessments through MPAC until all parties involved meet to come up with an  understandable agreement on the true-realistic value of these lands as of 2015. A motion to this affect had been passed at an MCA-MSCIA annual general meeting in January.