Farm properties bearing large percentage of tax burden, Federation of Agriculture

Mary Scott, manager of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, addresses the meeting.

PROVIDENCE BAY—The Manitoulin North Shore Federation of Agriculture is one of 52 county federations of the Ontario Farm Association which encompasses 38,000 members in this province.

Late last month, members met at the community hall in Providence Bay to hold its Annual General Meeting.

Alan Emiry of Massey is the president of this Northern federation and he was the host for this meeting with an agenda that included the passing of minutes, the financial report, elections and guest speakers.

Mary Scott, manager of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, was the first to speak at the meeting and outlined programs that are available to farmers as well as workshops that will be held in the coming weeks. She told the members that there is still funding available until December 15 for the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP) and funding would also be retroactive to last April. She also talked about other projects under SARFIP that would include fencing, rotational grazing, fencing to keep livestock from water’s edge, native tree and grassland planting, solar energy, block planting and in kind labour. Funding is also available to hire someone to get rid of species at risk.

Ms. Scott then explained that there are five workshops offered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association that she will hold this winter. These free workshops as well as webinars are part of Growing Forward 2 (GF2) to assist farm businesses in identifying strengths and weaknesses in five different areas with a goal to positively influence the farm’s profitability, productivity and sustainability. The date, time and place of these workshops will be in the Island newspapers.

The workshops to be offered include traceability, which is a one-and-a-half-day workshop to help one gain a competitive advantage and improve your bottom line by implementing a traceability system that effectively uses the information to gain added value through reduced costs, improved profit margins and increased market potential.

The Food Safety Workshop is a two-day in-class session to help one formalize their food safety program while the biosecurity meeting is a one-day in-class, commodity-specific workshop to help one enhance their biosecurity protocols. The Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) workshop is to help one develop an appropriate action plan to improve he environmental sustainability of one’s farm business. It too is a two-day in-class sitting.

Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) is the final workshop offered and the participants are to meet with the workshop leader on a one-on-one basis after attending a two-day, in-class seminar. This session provides an opportunity to learn practical methods to organize, prioritize and simplify the steps to achieve financial sustainability of the farm business.

Brian Bell, OMAFRA agriculture development advisor, was the next speaker and he outlined the task of putting together a bench line production of how one manages their assets. To this end, there is a survey of 99 questions is to be answered with a $50 incentive to those who participate.

Mr. Bell also spoke of the Heritage Fund which fits into farming growth plans and LAMBAC, which is interested in talking to people regarding tile management, and explaining that there is money available for clearing land and for tile drainage.

Another topic of interest was the federal/provincial/territorial Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) program, a $3 billion five-year investment to strengthen the agri-food sector in Canada and which begins April 2018. The CAP focus will be on science, research and innovation, markets and trade, environmental sustainability and climate change, value added agriculture and agri-food processing, public trust and risk management.

Mr. Bell also passed on the information that the Beef Farmers of Ontario will be holding a session on October 5 at the Pinewood Motor Inn in Espanola.

The next speaker was Mark Kunkel, the Northern Ontario Director of the OFA and a dairy farmer in Powassan. He spoke of the Great Northern Caucus which met to discuss Northern affairs and has a presence at the conferences.

He also talked of wildlife and damage to crops and especially mentioned sandhill cranes. “Our goal,” he said, “is to get enough data to go to the government.”

Mr. Kunkel gave an update on the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) about the field trials on yellow barley. He said that at one time about 80 percent of this barley would go to beer companies such as Molson and the 20 percent going to craft breweries. “That has completely changed,” he said, with the numbers flipped the other way.

Mr. Kunkel also talked about livestock disposal, and studies including on land clearing and the dairy industry.

“The fact sheets will be out in February,” he said. “Make sure all data, good or bad, comes back to us.” He also mentioned the frustration with wildlife damage claims where one has to take pictures, submit the claim and one is then told to go back and take more pictures. The emphasis is for farmers to take lots of pictures of the diseased animal.

Of special concern to Island farmers is the amount of tax on their properties. Assessments have increased 30 percent for the past four years while residential increases are minimal or have decreased. The OFA Service Representative for Manitoulin and the North Shore, Neil Tarlton, spoke of how farm property is bearing a far larger percent of the tax burden in municipalities. When asked by The Expositor if meetings had been held in Central Manitoulin with the mayor and council he replied in the affirmative but acknowledged that little progress had been made. What farmers would like to see is that residential taxes go up a small amount and farm taxes come down and that way the municipality would receive the same tax dollars, he said. Mr. Tarlton also outlined the way to appeal taxes on farm property by going to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation at to submit a Request for Reconsideration (RfR) and also to visit to see how your property was assessed and to compare it to others in your area.

Elections were held at this meeting starting with directors for the Manitoulin North Shore Federation of Agriculture being Nathaniel Wood, Steve Mailloux and Sandy Yore.

Jim Anstice maintains his position as member of the Policy Advisory Council and elected members to the OFA convention are Erica Speck and Steve Mailloux.