OFA outlines top three political priorities for 2014 (2014)

By Mark Wales, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Every year brings the opportunity to refresh and regroup on the key issues the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) zeros in on with politicians and policy makers. And in 2014, the OFA has identified three key issues to focus on with MPPs, issues that impact the way Ontario farmers carry out their business operations.

On behalf of our more than 37,000 members, the OFA will be addressing these issues with politicians, and we encourage our members to also take the time to talk with local MPPs in their home ridings, before the legislature reconvenes in February.

Natural gas is the first issue, and the need for greater access to natural gas throughout rural Ontario. The OFA will continue to push the province to invest in a long-term infrastructure project that provides low cost energy. At half the cost of electricity and one-third the cost of propane, natural gas would save rural Ontario farms, families and businesses more than $800 million per year in energy costs. In advance of the spring 2014 budget, OFA is asking the provincial government to commit to expanding natural gas infrastructure in Ontario. A long-term infrastructure project that provides low cost energy is a valuable investment in rural Ontario – one that will pay big dividends and help fuel growth.

OFA’s second priority for 2014 is to continue to build on Open for Business successes. Regulations are the number one issue impacting farm businesses, and the OFA looks for continued improvements through the Open for Business initiative. We have already had the opportunity to work with several ministries on behalf of the Ontario agricultural sector to address problematic regulations and to improve the regulatory process. We rely on good regulation to protect our crops and land. And the OFA is continuing to advocate for upfront consultation when regulations are developed to avoid unintended consequences that we often see in the farm sector. We’re also advocating for well-trained enforcement officers who act consistently and with appropriate discretion.

OFA’s third area of focus for 2014 is new ground for us – Ontario’s proposed Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. The OFA supports the intentions of this act to provide more transparency and accountability by not-for-profit corporations to their members. But we feel strongly that it encroaches on the rights that OFA members value. Specifically, the OFA is concerned with the proposed elimination of geographic-based elections. If directors were elected by all voting members at an annual meeting, as the act proposes, we would lose geographic representation and the ability of members to vote for a director in their area. This is an important issue for OFA members. OFA has some specific ideas for how to address this, and other unintended challenges with the act, and we will be bringing them forward to MPPs in the coming weeks.

As we begin a new season, the OFA looks forward to continuing our work with government and policymakers, advocating on behalf of Ontario farmers for profitable and sustainable farms.

For more information contact:

Mark Wales
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Martin Nygard says on January 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Natural gas would be an improvement but why not geothermal? It's the best thing I've done on my farm.

John Jansen says on January 3, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Cost of heating shop and house and especially crop drying.I would really like it.

Michael Mahler says on January 3, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Is tobacco still off the radar for you guys. The last l looked l was still classified as a farmer. We have a native problem and a provincial government that still owes us money where's your help.

kerry says on January 3, 2014 at 5:12 PM

how about looking into the high cost we pay for electricity compared to what the excess is sold off at????

Lyle Featherstone says on January 3, 2014 at 6:40 PM

It would be a great improvement on home heating.

kg kimball says on January 4, 2014 at 9:31 AM

We have 2 houses & Livestock barns on Propane and it costs around $10,000 + a yr. more than NG .Not sure how the funding would work for NG but Dowler Karn and other Propane companies have provided good service so I hope they would receive some compensation for losing customers especially if it is a "government paid for program" as livestock guys know how it felt when gov't decided too mandate ethanol and help finance infrastructure of the plants

John Johnston says on January 4, 2014 at 9:49 AM

I need natural gas, the cost of having it brought down the road is totally outragous! I become uncompetitive in my operation with only propane as a fuel source for drying. Why does our government want us to subsidize the TTC but not rural Ontario with Natural Gas?

joe fischer says on January 4, 2014 at 12:31 PM

we should allow the natural gas companies to install as many lines as they wish to serve the rural communities which includes farmers, don't get government involved in the cost only for the permits required.maybe by having them only involved for permits the projected will get quickly done without a lot of red tape.

John Rodgers says on January 4, 2014 at 12:32 PM

What about building the bioeconomy in rural Ontario instead by suppporting the use of biomass for heat?

Peter Naisbitt says on January 4, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Natural Gas YES!!! But even if we could get a break on the Hst that is on the Propane bill and Hydro. That alone would save Farmers as much as changing to Natural Gas.

Ann Waddon says on January 6, 2014 at 12:25 PM

Geo thermal does not work well in older buildings where ducts might be small, more ambient temperature than forced air. We also have gas as a back up. We do have a large manure pile. Supposed to be worth something but I have to pay to get it removed as we do not have a spreader. I would be interested in biomass.

Lynn McClary says on January 17, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Is the farm class tax rate on your agenda? All counties need to look at adjusting the percentage of residential tax rate used for the farm class tax rate. The current 25% maximum is not appropriate with the disproportionate increase in farm land assessments.

Ontario Federation of Agriculture says on January 17, 2014 at 12:23 PM

Thanks for your question, Lynn. The simplified answer to your question is yes, the farm Property Tax rate is certainly on our agenda. The OFA is extremely concerned about the shift in tax burden onto the farm property class as a result of the unprecedented increase in the valuation of farm property in MPAC’s most recent assessment. We have had meetings with several counties to discuss this issue and will be looking to expand our efforts in 2014 to have the ratio adjusted. The farm ratio can be adjusted by the upper tier and single tier Municipalities so we will be partnering with the county federations to address this issue throughout the province. We are also conducting a research project that will quantify the amount of revenue farms provide to Municipalities and the amount of Municipal services that they consume. We are confident these numbers will help us address the issue of the shift in tax burden onto the farm property class.

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