Key issue: Energy, Property & Infrastructure
Section Chair: Brian Gilroy
Property issues continue to be a major focus of the OFVGA and are an integral part of the association’s role as a lobby organization.
The OFVGA works with provincial government officials to address problems that affect farmers, such as wildlife conflicts, property rights, government program funding, water and municipal taxation.
Bird Damage Mitigation Advisory Group
The Bird Damage Mitigation Advisory Group continues to work at mitigation trials. Susan Fitzgerald is co-ordinating activities with all interested parties. Attracting American Kestrels to act as a natural deterrent to birds that prey on fruit and vegetable crops is the main trial activity. Thirty nesting boxes have been constructed for distribution to a number of sites, with the majority being established in the Niagara Region. Brian Gilroy is OFVGA’s representative on this committee.
Wildlife damage to horticultural crops
Wildlife predation of horticulture crops is a long-standing issue affecting fruit adn vegetable growers. In 2012, funding from the Ministry of Natural Resources was used to quantify the damage and develop a plan on next steps to minimize our losses to wildlife. According to the study, prepared by Susan Fitzgerald, losses are estimated at approximately $25 million annually. More informatio is available by contacting the OFVGA.
Decisions about what is or is not considered agricultural activity on farms are made by the provincial Ministry of Finance and these decisions are enforced by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).
The province does not have a current, consistent definition of farming. This means that property tax issues are being addressed or resolved on an individual instead of provincial basis. The OFVGA and other farm organizations are part of a working group whose goal it is to develop a definition that can be accepted by government and farmers.
For example, in 2009, after over twenty years of appeals, the Ontario government deemed cherry-pitting and on-farm freezing to be agricultural and not commercial activities, allowing those farm businesses to be taxed at the farm tax rate. The long-standing issue involving on-farm storage facilities continues to be addressed and some rollbacks have been achieved.
In the past year, OFVGA's property chair has been involved in responding to a series of provincial consultations surrounding issues that affect property. The following discussion papers were responses sent in to the provincial government to comment on various consultations.