Farmers raise tax issue at annual area agriculture meeting

PROVIDENCE BAY—The issue of the amount of taxes that farmers have to pay on their properties, due to assessment increases through the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) were again raised at the Manitoulin-North Shore Federation of Agriculture annual meeting last Friday in Providence Bay.

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 have been minimal or have decreased.

Neil Tarlton, OFA Service Representative for Manitoulin and the  North Shore, spoke of how farm property is bearing a far larger percent of the tax burden in municipalities. When asked 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 include going online 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.

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

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, the manager of soil and crop workshops, 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 15th 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.

Ms. Scott then explained that there are five workshops offered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) that she will hold this winter. These free workshops as well as webinars are part of Growing Froward 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 people 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 the environmental sustainability of one’s farm business. It too is a two-day in-class sitting.

Growing Your Farm Profits (GYPF) 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, said Ms. Scott. 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, Manitoulin’s  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 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 the LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC) which is interested in talking to people regarding tile drain management, 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 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.

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 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 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 then is told to go back and take more pictures. The emphasis is for farmers to take lots of pictures of the diseased animal.

Elections were held at this meeting starting with directors for the Manitoulin NorthShore 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.