by BETTER FARMING STAFF
An audited financial statement for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario failed to pass muster at the organization’s re-accreditation hearing in Guelph on Saturday. The chair of The Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Tribunal panel ordered the federation’s general manager and president to file an amended audited statement with the Tribunal and be prepared to come before the panel again to explain it.
The Tribunal found fault with a statement provided by general manager Nathan Stevens that did not contain clear numbers showing the amounts of monies the provincial organization paid to its affiliates. According to the regulations of the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, said hearing chairman Nicholas Richter, the financial statements and the auditor’s report must be prepared in accordance with standards set in the Handbook of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
After a lunch break during the day long hearing, Stevens came back with another statement, which Richter described as “helpful, but it is not an audited statement.”
Stevens told the Tribunal that the accountant who had prepared the financial report was not available on the weekend. (Richter allowed at the beginning of the hearing that this might be the first time that a Tribunal panel had ever sat on a Saturday.)
The Christian Farmers membership numbers are holding steady, Arthur area rabbit and sheep farmer Lorne Small told the Tribunal. Last year the organization had 4,441 members registered through farm business registrations.
But farm business registrations are not the be-all and end all, as all three general farm organizations have found this year, to their chagrin. On May 23, Christian Farmers, as well as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture were served notice that their accreditation had been ended. A common issue with all three organizations is that an interpretation of the 1993 act by the ministry’s legal services branch, concluded that directing a farm business registration fee of $195 to a particular organization did not confer membership in that organization. That would require a separate step, which the Tribunal’s decision refers to as “an explicit membership agreement.”
Small said he hoped that a similar efficient system for obtaining that agreement could be used by all three general organizations to satisfy the requirements of the Act.
Small says the organization’s bylaws have been changed to allow for another type of membership that will allow support by farm business owners who normally object to joining an organization because of their faith. BF