Behind the Lines - December 2011

Property tax is a key issue in rural Ontario. Better Farming has written about farm taxes on a number of occasions, mostly from the point of view of classification linked to assessments. This month’s cover story by Field Editor Mary Baxter, beginning on page 14, looks at revenue to rural municipalities from another standpoint – that of the municipalities which provide you, as a farm business owner, with good roads to travel on, fire and police protection, and also deals with key concerns such as drainage.

Since the late 1990s, when the provincial government reformed municipal and property taxes on a huge scale, municipalities have periodically struggled with how to make ends meet while delivering the services that residents and the province expects. While individual assessments are a  worry, our writer has identified a larger one – the winding down of a number of federal and provincial infrastructure programs that were supposed to make the end of the farm tax rebate revenue neutral.

The business of providing seed corn to farmers is changing as fast as the hybrids that are available. There is pressure on seed companies to make growers aware of refuge requirements when they sell them Bt corn. More farmers are making seed decisions and buying in the fall rather than waiting for the New Year. Better Farming has canvassed seed corn providers for their new genetics and they will be available on a searchable chart on our website this month. For more information about refuge requirements and those new corn varieties, see the story by Don Stoneman on page 41.

The government’s move to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board has generated the largest public relations campaign we have ever encountered. “Marketing Freedom Will Unleash Business Opportunities,” says the latest release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It’s an account of a speech given by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. A day earlier: same topic, same minister, different headline, different audience. “Red Deer Grain Farmers and Business Community Need Marketing Freedom.” And so it’s been for weeks now.

Ontario wheat growers who have a different system  don’t have a dog in this fight. There are, however, some nagging questions and maybe there are some political lessons we can learn. For one thing, as Barry Wilson argues in his regular column, The Hill, on page 62, Ontario wheat farmers voted to end their monopoly. That democratic option wasn’t available to Western growers.

As the holiday season approaches, we want to extend our best wishes and take this opportunity to thank you, the readers and advertisers, whose support makes Better Farming possible. And, on page 30, we think we have the perfect story to capture the spirit of the season. Let us introduce you to Ontario Christian Gleaners, a Cambridge-based organization that uses volunteers to turn farm produce, which might ordinarily be wasted, into a nutritious soup mix to feed the hungry. BF


Better Farming - December 2011