Behind the Lines - May 2010

Forty years ago, property taxes were the flash point in rural Ontario that led to a farmer uprising, and to the birth of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the province’s largest farm organization. Fast-forward 40 years and property taxes continue to be a sore point.

Most farmers are land-based, so it’s only natural that a hike in their assessment would raise their hackles. And the fact that it’s not clear how an assessment is arrived at is a sore point as well.

That lack of transparency in making assessment decisions is central to our cover story, starting on page 14. Writer Susan Mann explores the controversies surrounding how the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation assesses farm properties. Many farm owners find that its system is wanting. While complaints, both rural and urban, are a fraction of the number compiled before an Ombudsman’s report in 2006, there are still many on the farm side. We doubt you will find this story enjoyable. We hope you will find it compelling reading.   

And while we’re pondering the need for farm lobbying, our political columnist Barry Wilson offers his insight (see page 70) on how farm leaders can harm their credibility by offering public praise for government programs.

“Compaction pioneer” Bob Misener says land degradation caused by heavy machinery may be the biggest threat to agriculture today. One of Misener’s biggest fans, Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario president Ken Nixon, credits Bob and his brother Tom with making “a religion of reducing soil compaction.” The Miseners retired last year and the mantle of compaction fighter appears to have been taken up by Wellington County pork producer Jake Kraayenbrink.

He has turned his attention to the challenge of reducing compaction from heavy liquid manure spreaders. This story, by Don Stoneman, begins on page 24.

Kraayenbrink already has a reputation as a farm innovator. In 2006 he won a Premier’s Award for his system for delivering breeding stock to customers while maintaining biosecurity in his own herd.

Our popular Crop Scene Investigation (on page 40) begins its annual summer break with this issue. That leaves you with one last chance to win a wireless weather station before the series returns in the fall. BF

Robert Irwin & Don Stoneman

Better Farming - May 2010