This week’s guest commentary comes from Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
For the first time in 20 years, the process that allows Ontario farmers to register their farm businesses – and access key services and programs – is under review. That’s good news for Ontario farmers and the general farm organizations that represent them. Last year’s accreditation challenge saw Ontario farm organizations – including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) – struggle to become accredited under outdated legislation.
Last year the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) Appeals Tribunal, the government body in charge of accrediting OFA, challenged the definition of the term “member.” To address the challenge and meet the new criteria, the OFA introduced a new two-step process for membership in 2013. New for 2013, farmers were required to take a second step by signing an explicit membership agreement and returning it to their selected farm organization in order to be considered a member.
OFA saw overwhelming support, with a 72 per cent response rate from OFA farm business registrants. Even with the added second step, OFA’s confirmed farm businesses exceed last year’s, with more than 37,000 supporters. The OFA thanks Ontario farmers for their support, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the provincial government on our members’ behalf.
The Farm Business Registration (FBR) legislation currently under review is important. In addition to allowing farmers to become a member of OFA and access exclusive benefits, the FBR process also makes farmers eligible for important government programs, including farm tax classification, risk management programs and crop insurance. The OFA thanks OMAF for reviewing the process and the requirements around the program. We welcome the opportunity to inform and help shape final recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes.
As the voice of Ontario farmers, OFA will make a submission addressing the specific objectives of the FBR review. We will be pushing for legislative and regulatory changes to ensure the process is simple, clear and effective, and serves the needs of Ontario farmers.
The OFA also encourages members to submit their own thoughts on the FBR program through OMAF’s general consultation process. Specifically, OMAF is looking for feedback on several issues including: (1) who should be responsible for accreditation and whether the role of the ministry should be expanded; (2) what the criteria should be for farm organizations to be accredited; (3) whether the costs to process refunds should be non-refundable; and (4) whether the minimum gross farm income should be adjusted.
Thank you for supporting OFA, and for being engaged in our mission for profitable and sustainable farms. OFA members are encouraged to provide feedback on this review by September 13 through the FBR review link at ofa.on.ca or by fax at 519-826-6628.