by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The Saskatoon-based National Farmers Union rather than National Farmers Union–Ontario is representing farmers within the province, the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has concluded.
And that’s why the Tribunal denied NFU-O accreditation, according to the adjudicative body’s April 15 reasons for its decision. “The NFU-O does not have standing to apply for accreditation under section 4(1) of the Act (Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993) because it does not represent farmers in the province as required by that section,” the three-member Tribunal panel writes. Any activities that the provincial organization might carry out on its own “are, in substance, the activities of the NFU operating through the NFU-O.”
In the lengthy reasons document, the Tribunal panel paints the NFU-O as a shell organization whose primary purpose was not to represent farmers but rather to milk funds from the Ontario farm organization accreditation program.
“It exists because the NFU cannot satisfy the requirement for incorporation under Ontario law, as set out in section 5(1)2 of the Regulation,” the panel members write.
The decision’s reasons are posted in full on the Tribunal’s website. They come four months after the release of the Tribunal panel's decision to refuse the NFU-O accreditation.
The written decision asserts that the national organization held most of the power, paying the salary of the provincial organization’s regional coordinator and even, through the way the provincial branch’s letters of patent are set up, requiring farmers in Ontario to join the NFU if they wanted to be members of the provincial organization.
John Sutherland, president of NFU-O and Region 3 coordinator, says the Ontario organization’s response will come “in due course after council here in Ontario have discussed it.” The organization has scheduled a teleconference tonight “to do precisely that.”
“To make comments at this time would be a little early because it will be the council that decides what and how and where, etc., we’re going to do things.”
Former provincial agriculture minister Ted McMeekin had intervened on the NFU-O’s behalf by asserting that the Tribunal overstepped its legislative boundaries because a section in the Act limits it to rubber-stamping applications. The Tribunal panel claims that the legislation provides it with the power to determine whether a farm organization qualifies for accreditation.
“As with any standing provision, the Tribunal's role under section 4(1) of the Act is to ensure that only those persons who are authorized to apply for accreditation are permitted to have their applications proceed to a full consideration on the merits,” the decision states.
Under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993 qualified farmers (those who annually make $7,000 or more from their farm business) must join an accredited organization and pay it a membership fee of $195 in order to obtain a farm business registration number. The registration number is a prerequisite to access several government-funded programs. There are three accredited general farm organizations in Ontario: Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and L’Union Des Cultivateurs Franco-Ontariens. Both the OFA and CFFO receive funding directly from the membership fees; L’Union receives its funding from the other two accredited organizations. BF
- with files from Susan Mann
General farm accreditation archive