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.
Wildlife damage to horticultural crops
Wildlife predation of horticulture crops is a long-standing issue affecting fruit and 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, losses are estimated at approximately $25 million annually. More information 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.
Bill 32 - The Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018
The OFVGA recently submitted comments on the Ontario government's Bill 32 - The Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018. Click here for a PDF of the Submission.
November 30, 2018
Honourable Greg Rickford
Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines
Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines
Re: The Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018 (Bill 32), ERO # 013-3975
We are writing on behalf of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) to comment on the Ontario government’s proposed Natural Gas Expansion Support Program, which has been introduced through the Access to Natural Gas Act, 2018. In short, the OFVGA is supportive of the government’s goal to increase access to natural gas in the province.
The OFVGA represents all fruit and vegetable farmers in Ontario. Among OFVGA’s membership is a growing number of greenhouse farms, which rely on energy to heat their facilities to allow for year-round food production in Canada’s northern climate. Ontario’s greenhouse vegetable production represents over $850 million in farm gate sales, and nearly half of the $1.5 billion of fruits and vegetables exported annually. Having access to efficient and affordable energy, including natural gas, is important to the competitiveness of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable production, and the sector’s ability to grow fresh, high quality food year-round, contributing to healthy eating and food security goals across the province.
Resulting from the lack of natural gas infrastructure, fruit and vegetable production is less competitive due to being forced to use less efficient and more costly energy, and in some cases, sector growth has been stifled. In many circumstances, insufficient natural gas access is as problematic as no access whatsoever. It is important to ensure expansion programs also consider upgrading current infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of users.
Ontario’s business climate can be further improved by removing roadblocks that impede the development of Combined Heat and Power (CHP). CHP uses natural gas to efficiently produce heat, electricity and carbon dioxide, all of which are key greenhouse inputs. This synergy leads to over 94% overall efficiency and supports the greenhouse sector’s move towards year-round production. Despite these opportunities, restricted access to natural gas and the inability to perform self-generation and export to the grid, depending on market conditions, have reduced the uptake of this technology. This presents a missed opportunity, as a mixture of public and private energy infrastructure assets could help stabilize Ontario’s energy system.
The OFVGA is interested in learning more about the specific changes proposed by Bill 32. A fair and equitable system should be implemented to ensure natural gas infrastructure is prioritized where it is needed most and significant economic gains can be achieved. The OFVGA wishes to ensure that administrative changes do not disproportionately impact specific rate classes.
OFVGA wishes to understand further the amount of compensation to be available to distributors, and the costs that will be borne by the natural gas customers. We agree that compensation should be collected through reasonable installment payments throughout the year, as this will help businesses with long term planning. Lastly, we urge that any money collected in excess, is reimbursed fairly to those that overpaid.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on Bill 32, the Access to Natural Gas Act. Having sufficient access to natural gas will support the competitiveness of fruit and vegetable production in Ontario and enable sector growth. After reviewing OFVGA’s comments, should you have any questions or would like to meet, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Chair, OFVGA Board
Chair, OFVGA Energy, Property & Infrastructure Section