Ontario Farm Business Registration Process Under Review

Originally Published in Canadina Cattlemen, Sept 2, 2013

NFU-O cut off from eligibility for provincially-mandated dues

The farm business registration (FBR) program, by which the National Farmers Union-Ontario (NFU-O) has now found itself shut out from collecting mandatory dues from Ontario farmers, is up for review.

As part of the review, Ontario’s farmers have until Sept. 13 to suggest changes, if any, to the FBR program. The process today requires farmers to have an FBR number to take part in certain provincial ag programs.

According to Agricorp, the province’s farm program delivery agency, the objectives of the FBR review are “to determine what changes, if any, are required” to the process — specifically, the accreditation process for farm organizations and the criteria for a farm organization to be eligible for accreditation.

The review will also ask what, if any, changes are required to ensure the registration and/or membership process is simple and efficient for farm businesses, accredited farm organizations and Agricorp, which administers the FBR program.

The FBR program now requires all farm businesses with gross farm income of $7,000 or more (Ontario now has about 45,000 such businesses) to file with the provincial ag ministry a completed farming business registration form and a fee, (now $195 plus HST), payable to an accredited farm organization.

Farmers can then ask for a refund of that fee, if they wish, to direct it to a different organization.

Today, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) are the only two accredited organizations. Both, and the NFU-O, had accreditation in previous years, but lost it in May last year in an unexpected decision from the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal

The tribunal, an arm’s-length body which oversees accreditation, found none of the three groups met the requirements under the provincial Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act (FRFOFA).

The province stepped in to rework the regulations on accreditation, which saw the OFA and CFFO regain their status. The tribunal again ruled against the NFU-O, finding it still did “not have standing to apply for accreditation,” nor did it “meet the requirements for accreditation.”

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