© AgMedia Inc.
by SUSAN MANN
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s changes to some of the eligibility requirements for tobacco licenses means children or other family members of growers who took the federal buyout can now try their hand in the industry.
And those people still have time to get their licenses as the application deadline was extended to May 22 from May 15. But potential growers are also facing a tight deadline to prepare land for planting.
Linda Vandendriessche, chair of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers’ Marketing Board, says “fumigants have to go on the soil at a particular time of year and it’s getting very, very late.”
Former West Lorne-area tobacco farmer Harry Vergeer says extending the deadline for license applications “allows for the crop size to be a bit larger than it would have been if the extension hadn’t been put in place.”
Vergeer and his brothers have grown tobacco for 42 years and have now switched to corn, soybeans and wheat. He’s taken the federal tobacco buyout but his son, Mark, is looking to enter the industry.
“He will be the owner of the (tobacco) crop and we will be helping him,” Vergeer says.
This is “about transition from one generation to the next,” he adds. “That was the principle of the program – to help tobacco farmers leave the industry and reposition the industry in moving forward.”
Vandendriessche says the board changed the deadline for the license applications after the federal government lifted restrictions May 7 prohibiting family members of farmers participating in the Tobacco Transition program from growing tobacco on their family’s land.
But the family member getting the license must rent the land and equipment from their family. “It has to be a business deal, at arm’s length and all documented according to government guidelines,” she says.
The board challenged the previous prohibition on family members from being able to obtain a license. “The Tobacco Transition program recipient gave up his right to grow,” she says. “He did not give up his right to manage his farm.”
So far, about 70 people have received licenses. This year’s crop size won’t be known until after the May 22 license application deadline.
License applications are available at the board office in Tillsonburg. The fee is $100 for the license plus a one-cent-a-pound assessment that goes to the tobacco board for its operations. The $100 is deducted off of the assessment, Vandendriessche says. The license has to be renewed annually.
If a grower can’t find a company willing to buy his or her product, they can’t grow that year. “This is tobacco and there is still legislation and regulations that have to be followed for growing the crop,” she says.
More information about the license applications is available from the board office at (519) 842-3661. BF