Ratio change would help farmers’ viability

The Prince Edward County Federation of Agriculture is appreciative of any efforts to highlight the myriad of external issues that the 400 farmers in this county and the board members of the local federation of agriculture face on a daily basis.

They face these in addition to the responsibilities associated with raising families, growing their crops, raising their livestock, managing their land (much of which has been in their family for generations) and trying to ensure that national and local residents continue to have access to safe, affordable, delicious foods.
Agriculture has changed so much in the last few decades and farmers now consist of only two percent of the Ontario population. Working to feed the other 98 percent comes with some enormous challenges but we plan to make a living in this business because it’s one we love and take a lot of pride in.

We’d like to correct the record on one issue in particular from Rick Conroy’s commentary in The Times of Feb. 28. As background, in 1998, the Province discontinued the practice of reimbursing farmers for 75 per cent of the taxes on their farmlands and mandated that municipalities charge the farm tax class at 25 per cent of the residential rate.

This was later changed to a range of between zero per cent and 25 per cent to give local councils flexibility, recognizing that this land generally requires few of the services used by residential lots such as waste collection and recycling, social and family services and access to libraries and arenas.

It is important to note though, that the residential homes of farmers are still taxed at the residential rate given to those homes that do use municipal services. To compensate for this loss of revenue, the Province has given the revenue from the Provincial Offences Act to the municipalities despite the fact that the farm tax class remains profitable for them at the lower rate.

There are two proposals on the table right now. One would raise the farmland taxes by about 110 per cent and double the farm share of County tax revenue from 1.9 per cent to 2.8 per cent.

The other would raise the farmland taxes by around 70 per cent and raise the farm share to 2.3 per cent of revenue. The average residential taxpayer would still get a cumulative benefit in this assessment cycle (2017 – 2020) of around $60 from the higher assessments. In contrast, the cumulative extra tax cost for the average farm family would be several thousand dollars. This is a high cost to manage but is preferable to average increases of over 110 per cent if no action is taken.

People care about their food. People care about farmers. New farmers are our future. Our organization is advocating the proposed 20-per-cent ratio to give our county farms a better chance of remaining viable for current and future generations.

Lynn Leavitt
First vice- president
Don Williams
Second vice-president
Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture