By Drew Spoelstra, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is a provincial organization that represents Ontario’s farmers on the issues that matter to them.
Most of those issues are provincial in nature, and we work with governments at the municipal and provincial levels to raise awareness and find solution to matters that impact farmers.
When it comes to issues that are national in nature – such as the federal government’s 35% tariff on fertilizer, access to labour or the new national sustainable agriculture strategy currently in development – the OFA turns to its national counterpart, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), to take the lead.
Our organization is an active member in the CFA; in fact, we’ll shortly be sending our representatives to participate in the CFA annual meeting in Ottawa, which this year will focus on the theme of Building a Resilient Future for Canadian Agriculture.
We’ll debate resolutions submitted by farmers from coast to coast and look at how we can build further resilience in agriculture and the Canadian food system in the context of a changing climate and large-scale supply chain disruptions.
Even though we work closely with the CFA, the OFA also does its own advocacy work at the national level to make sure the voices of our 38,000 farmers are represented. That’s why, for example, the OFA participates in the federal pre-budget consultation process by making submissions to Finance Canada on what we believe is needed to help strengthen our agri-food sector, rural communities and the Canadian economy.
This year, OFA made five recommendations to the federal government:
1. Financial compensation for farmers negatively impacted by federal fertilizer tariffs
Last March, the Canadian government imposed a 35% tariff on imports from Russia, which includes fertilizer. Farmers in Eastern Canada import 85 to 90% of their nitrogen fertilizer from Russa, and the tariffs have added considerable extra costs to food production in an already inflationary environment. In the short-term, we continue to ask that the fertilizer tariff dollars to be reimbursed back to the farmers who paid them, and if that’s not feasible, to establish a way that the funds are returned to the agriculture sector.
Long-term, we must reduce our reliance on Russian fertilizer and need federal government investment in domestic nitrogen capacity, particularly in Eastern Canada so that we minimize future risks to Canada’s food security.
2. Exempt farm businesses from filing requirements for the underused housing tax
The new federal Underused Housing Tax Act requires private corporations and partnerships – which includes farms – who own a residential property to file an Underused Housing Tax return even if they don’t have to pay any tax. Farmers don’t play a meaningful role in Canada’s rental housing market and many will be unaware that they have to file such a return.
With the penalties for failing to file set at exorbitantly high levels, we are asking for an exemption from filing requirements for farm businesses to avoid unnecessary financial hardship for farmers.
3. Improve the Advance Payment Program
The Advance Payment Program is a federal loan guarantee program that gives farmers access to low-interest cash advances. With ongoing increases in the cost of fuel, fertilizer and other farm inputs, we are asking for the 2022 temporary increase in the interest-free loan amount from $100,000 to $250,000 to be made permanent.
We’re also asking for administrative improvements to the program to make it simpler and more efficient, and for 60% of the advance to be available in the fall when farmers make many of their planting purchases for the following year, instead of having to wait until spring to receive the full amount.
4. Funding for clean technology adoption
The Agricultural Clean Technology Program announced by the federal government in 2021 was extremely well received by farmers and funding requests greatly outweighed the amount of money available to help farmers purchase technologies that help reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. We’re asking for renewed funding under this program, which will boost uptake of cleantech solutions by farmers and help the government reach its goals of reducing the carbon impact of agriculture.
5. Broadening the fuel tax exemption for farmers
Farmers depend on fuels like natural gas and propane to heat and cool livestock barns and dry grain crops to keep them from spoiling. These aren’t optional activities and as we currently lack workable alternative energy options, the federal fuel surcharges for the price on carbon have placed a significant financial burden on farmers. Research has shown that the costs to Ontario farmers between now and full implementation of federal carbon pricing structures in 2030 are estimated at over $890 million.
That’s why we strongly recommend that all MPs support Bill C-234 which would expand the definition of farm machinery exempt under the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to include heating and cooling of livestock barns and grain drying activities.
We’re prepared to work closely with the federal government to deliver these necessary investments and programs for the benefit of all Canadians and our national economy. More information is available at ofa.on.ca.
For more information, contact:
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
519-821-8883 ext. 218