Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Paul Bootsma, CFFO Field Services Manager
The CFFO has always looked to the future when developing today’s policy. That’s because we are positive about agriculture. Like our members, we are eternal optimists. Farmers tend to look ahead and see opportunity each year. Planning is an integral part of farming. However, we continually see a lack of foresight when it comes to succession planning to move ownership on to the next generation.
Many farm businesses are in transition with the next generation who are taking on responsibilities and handling the management of these businesses. But we all know, there’s more work to be done to improve rates of succession.
During a recent CFFO district annual meeting in Haldimand-Norfolk, Alison Earls, who works in economic development and tourism in Haldimand County, shared the results of an exploratory survey into succession planning in Haldimand. This research project was undertaken as part of a degree requirement for her Masters in Economic Development and Innovation. The results aren’t conclusive, but the story sounds familiar.
In Haldimand, Earls found that 45% of those surveyed did not have any plans. Amazingly, 24% were not familiar with the term “succession planning.”
From the small sample taken 21% of the farmers Earls spoke to had written succession plans, which is above the provincial average of 8.5%. Thirty percent had plans but nothing actually written down.
Sixty per cent thought their successor would be their children, while 24% had plans to sell to another farmer or a developer. This suggests plenty of young farmers could be coming on board, if farmers pursue a succession plan early enough.
The CFFO has spent time dealing with succession planning in the past number of years and continues to encourage it. But succeeding your parents on the farm isn’t the only route to farming successfully.
We see an increasing number of young farmers emerging across the province, operating small, specific farms and serving a selected customer base. Even as some take over existing businesses, others are creating new ones.
Next month, the CFFO supply management committee will be meeting again in Woodstock to discuss new entrant programs in the dairy and poultry sectors. CFFO hopes to encourage the expansion of opportunities and success for new entrants. If you’d like more information about the meeting, please contact the CFFO office.
The ag industry in Ontario needs to encourage young farmers and build opportunities for newcomers to the industry. If we don’t, then the industry could end up sitting on the porch as the world moves on past it.