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As a farmer, what’s your number one issue?

Travelling throughout Ontario, talking to farmers provides people like me, the President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, with an abundance of thoughts on what agriculture’s top 10 issues should be.

Farm income is a sure bet to be at the top of such a list – regardless of what area of the province you are in or what commodity you produce. A farm is a business and what else is more important than the ability to earn a profit to sustain that business?

Most of the issues the OFA tackles for its members relate to the ability to earn a profit. However, they start out looking a lot different in many cases. The OFA deals with issues such as predator controls, property taxes, environmental stewardship, clean water, etc. At the base of these issues, however, is the bottom line on individual farms and what OFA can do to protect or enhance the farm family’s income.

Identifying the issues is just the first part of serving member needs. Once we know the issues, we have to work with commodity and other partners to develop possible solutions.

This is when the real difficult work begins for OFA – getting the proposed solutions to the right people within governments, both elected and appointed, because that’s where proposals are turned into solutions.

While increased financial returns is an obvious answer to farm income issues, OFA has also placed a major emphasis on retaining the income farmers receive. We have done this through improved tax legislation: savings of more than five million dollars on Land Transfer taxes for starting farmers; property tax savings of about 368 million dollars for farmers in general; savings of about six million dollars for Outlet Drains.

Through efforts of OFA and its national partner, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Ontario farmers have benefited from about 585 million dollars received from safety net programs. Farmers in Ontario have also received more than seven million dollars from the Environmental Farm Plan program.

OFA continues to play a lead role as it works with Ontario commodity organizations to bring workable Business Risk Management Programs to fruition for farmers in the beef, pork and horticultural sectors. When this work eventually pays dividends, it will make farming in those sectors more predictable and enjoyable for the farm families involved.

As modern agriculture becomes increasingly knowledge based, the OFA is proud of its staff of researchers and member service representatives (MSRs). These people are available to work with OFA members on issues impacting farm families.

Another key element in the chain of problem solvers and issues confronting farmers is the local federations of agriculture. In most instances, this is where identification of issues and development of solutions begin. When an issue comes up on the farm, the OFA’s MSR and the local federation step up and go to work on possible solutions.

It’s the local federation, in the majority of cases, that initiates a resolution to the OFA’s Board of Directors. When all the necessary fine tuning is done and the resolution passed, the OFA then goes to work getting details in the hands of government – staff and elected levels.

It’s also the local federations the OFA turns to for engagement of the local membership when a mass lobby at Queen’s Park or Parliament Hill is needed to government to act.

Identifying issues facing Ontario farmers is something OFA does almost daily. Planning a course of action has become second nature for OFA. We’re always ready to serve Ontario farmers.

By Bette Jean Crews, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

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Wayne said: "Please forgive me for being ignorant to the matter but I ask again in a different format.."

The grain commodity boards passed resolutions at their AGM in March 2007. Each board passed their own resolutions demanding audits.

http://ejournalism.ca/?q=node/688

As the Corn, Wheat and Soy boards are paid members of the OFA.... the resolutions, from what I understand, were brought to the attention of the OFA. Doesn't the OFA have a fiduciary duty towards its membership?

The President of the OFA was publicly quoted on April 24, 2007 as saying in regards to the resolutions to audit OFPMC "I've suggested to the proponents that it does have its place but timing is as important as the initiative itself,"

Does that not suggest that the commodity boards which are members of the OFA did forward the resolutions? One has to ask, how many members did those boards represent? But the OFA acted on only a small portion of requests and deferred the rest. The President of the OFA said timing of the audit for OFPMC "is as important as the initiative itself".

That just begs the question...If the President of the OFA says the audit is important then when will the OFA pursue the audit of OFPMC?" Please explain the timing as it is now 3 years since the requests were made and farmers are losing ground fast and furious.

I am glad, that as a member of the OFA, you are getting calls but it is unfortunate that you seem to perceive requests for information as a burden on your time. Proper communication and education are vital tools.

The issue of audits is "big enough". (It is curious that you rate issues. what may be a minuscule issue to one is a vast issue to another)

The commodity boards under OFPMC are "Public Trusts" Boards are the legal guardians to "licenses to trade". Licenses that have constitutional protection for domestic peoples. Audits of "Public Trusts" are preformed to ensure validation and vindication of the public's interest. Audits should validate that the boards are functioning to the best interests of both the public and the farmer. If there are any problems, an audit would identify issues which can be brought forward to address in a positive manner.

One would think an organization such as the OFA would be a leader in ensuring the legally required audits were preformed regularly to validate any statement or information the organization pursues. How can any farm organization advance any recommendation on agricultural policy change when audits of its memberships are ignored? Is that doing due diligence?

Audits are not witch hunts. The request for audits is not about seeking out blame or scapegoats. Audits are important tools to protect the interest of the farmer and the public. Audits are positive tools.

I will ask again... Why is the OFA so afraid to pursue the audit of OFPMC that its membership requested 3 years ago?



Wayne Black said:
Joann,
Please forgive me for being ignorant to the matter but I ask again in a different format - was the resolution brought up infront of the board and voted on? Until that happens the OFA (or any organization for that matter that has a Board of Directors and such) will probably not act on a resolution. As I had to explain to a person the other day - I do not act upon every single issue that comes across my computer or desk until it is dealt with at the Board. Some issues come from non-members which, in my opinion, why would I act on them? Some issues come from people who are not aware that an organization has probably already looked after the issue. This past week I had one member call up with four issues - non of which I can act upon because he does not want to come to the Board with any of the issues and explain them. If the issue is big enough I would have more than one person call me about the issue. 2000 members and 200 issues. Let's find some common ground and move forward on 20 issues. Like a lot of other issues though - when non-members criticize an organization for not acting on a perceived issue...
Wayne... and the other guy... You seem to be baiting this dialogue to a known conclusion or one of a convenient conviction of yours or OFA. The legislation that the boards are mandated under, consists of a strict set of reporting rules. Minutes must reflect actual occurrences and as many know, and you do not seem to dispute, these resolutions were passed at producer AGM meetings and as boards are members of OFA, were or should have been supported by OFA.

Published accounts of public board meetings would indicate resolutions with subject matter of "public trust audits" were passed. These reports must be forwarded to OFPMC who in turn forwards reports to the minister. What report was given by the minister in her report to the cabinet about these audit request? Was the report given to cabinet reflective of the desire expressed through passed resolutions by producers to have the legally required audits (as yet undone) completed? Was a true report given to cabinet or were boards and OFA part of a overwhelming convince by the minister or any other arm of government to make them a willing or unwilling accessory to a possibly untruthful and less than complete, accurate report for public account?

The discovery of a less than stellar outcome for Agricorp's audit should have triggered further inquiry as to how ongoing checks and balances failed to flag continued failure within the reporting chain
Resolutions passed at commodity boards are not necessarily brought to OFA board since it is the responsibility of the commodity board to bring it forward to OFA to vote on.
Instead of bickering here, take the resolution you are requesting to your local board and bring it up. Obviously it has never been voted on or discussed by the board at OFA so all other accusations towards OFA are null and void.

Joann said:
Wayne said: "Please forgive me for being ignorant to the matter but I ask again in a different format.." The grain commodity boards passed resolutions at their AGM in March 2007. Each board passed their own resolutions demanding audits.

http://ejournalism.ca/?q=node/688

As the Corn, Wheat and Soy boards are paid members of the OFA.... the resolutions, from what I understand, were brought to the attention of the OFA. Doesn't the OFA have a fiduciary duty towards its membership?

The President of the OFA was publicly quoted on April 24, 2007 as saying in regards to the resolutions to audit OFPMC "I've suggested to the proponents that it does have its place but timing is as important as the initiative itself,"

Does that not suggest that the commodity boards which are members of the OFA did forward the resolutions? One has to ask, how many members did those boards represent? But the OFA acted on only a small portion of requests and deferred the rest. The President of the OFA said timing of the audit for OFPMC "is as important as the initiative itself".

That just begs the question...If the President of the OFA says the audit is important then when will the OFA pursue the audit of OFPMC?" Please explain the timing as it is now 3 years since the requests were made and farmers are losing ground fast and furious.

I am glad, that as a member of the OFA, you are getting calls but it is unfortunate that you seem to perceive requests for information as a burden on your time. Proper communication and education are vital tools.

The issue of audits is "big enough". (It is curious that you rate issues. what may be a minuscule issue to one is a vast issue to another)

The commodity boards under OFPMC are "Public Trusts" Boards are the legal guardians to "licenses to trade". Licenses that have constitutional protection for domestic peoples. Audits of "Public Trusts" are preformed to ensure validation and vindication of the public's interest. Audits should validate that the boards are functioning to the best interests of both the public and the farmer. If there are any problems, an audit would identify issues which can be brought forward to address in a positive manner.

One would think an organization such as the OFA would be a leader in ensuring the legally required audits were preformed regularly to validate any statement or information the organization pursues. How can any farm organization advance any recommendation on agricultural policy change when audits of its memberships are ignored? Is that doing due diligence?

Audits are not witch hunts. The request for audits is not about seeking out blame or scapegoats. Audits are important tools to protect the interest of the farmer and the public. Audits are positive tools.

I will ask again... Why is the OFA so afraid to pursue the audit of OFPMC that its membership requested 3 years ago?



Wayne Black said:
Joann,
Please forgive me for being ignorant to the matter but I ask again in a different format - was the resolution brought up infront of the board and voted on? Until that happens the OFA (or any organization for that matter that has a Board of Directors and such) will probably not act on a resolution. As I had to explain to a person the other day - I do not act upon every single issue that comes across my computer or desk until it is dealt with at the Board. Some issues come from non-members which, in my opinion, why would I act on them? Some issues come from people who are not aware that an organization has probably already looked after the issue. This past week I had one member call up with four issues - non of which I can act upon because he does not want to come to the Board with any of the issues and explain them. If the issue is big enough I would have more than one person call me about the issue. 2000 members and 200 issues. Let's find some common ground and move forward on 20 issues. Like a lot of other issues though - when non-members criticize an organization for not acting on a perceived issue...
Talking about holding feet to the fire - found this to be interesting - out of the Ontario Farmer.

http://ontariofarmer.com/pages/latest-news/latest-news-05.html

A motion brought forward at Wednesday’s provincial director’s meeting by Halton’s Peter Lambrick calling for directors to be assigned to resolutions to add accountability and timeliness of disposition was defeated after president Bette Jean Crews cast the tie-breaking vote.


While general manager Neil Currie admitted that “holding our feet to the fire (is) not necessarily a bad idea,” he said the organization is “working towards implementing a more formal review process.”


Crews suggested OFA might want to implement a similar procedure as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) uses.


At the CFA level, resolutions automatically drop off after a certain time period and at each annual meeting a package of resolutions about to expire are brought before the delegates for re-consideration about which ones should stay. “That seems to be a process that is working…maybe we should bring forward a policy here,” said Crews.
Your remarks are puzzling Mr. Black. It would appear that resolutions to audit OFPMC/OMAFRA are extremely touchy to your organization. You also appear to have an aversion to the topic.

The grain commodity boards were members of OFA. Combined they represented tens of thousands of farmers. They passed resolutions at their AGM calling for audits. If you want copies of their resolutions, I believe true copies of all minutes, resolutions and other business must be sent to OFPMC and for good reason.

One just has to look back a little to understand why.

If you look in Legislation in 1852, Boards of Agriculture, Cap 11,(18) you will read..."the said boards shall transmit to the Bureau of Agriculture a copy of all their resolutions, By-laws or other formal proceedings, immediately after the adoption thereof,... (sound familiar?)

Yes.. agricultural boards were legal corporate entities formed through legislation before confederation. Yes, Ontario agricultural boards existed BEFORE OFPMC... long before the commission was formed.......as did marketing licenses...

But true copies of minutes and resolutions were sent to the Minister for a very valid reason. The Minister of Agriculture was ex-officio President of all agricultural boards. The Minister of Agriculture had/has a constitutional mandate to give an accurate report on the state of agriculture to Cabinet. Sound familiar?

As defined earlier, agriculture is really about a "class of people working with natural resources". This special class of people were awarded Contracts directly from the Crown. The Minister had/has a duty to report on a very important Public Trust... to report on the state of Crown Contracts....and file it as a public document.... so the Minister needed/needs true copies to glean information on the state of agriculture. If the information is not true or even incomplete, how can the Minister make accurate reports to Cabinet? Why.. that would cause embarrassment! ... or worse.... ...

Its about public accountability on the state of Crown Contracts.

Wayne Black said:
Resolutions passed at commodity boards are not necessarily brought to OFA board since it is the responsibility of the commodity board to bring it forward to OFA to vote on.
Instead of bickering here, take the resolution you are requesting to your local board and bring it up. Obviously it has never been voted on or discussed by the board at OFA so all other accusations towards OFA are null and void.

As an Ontario Farmer in the non-supply managed livestock sector, I feel we need IMMEDIATE parity with Quebec from our Government. 100% COP - not the 40% that we are likely to end up with (from the coalition).
Thanks JC for steering the discussion back to the original topic which was "What is your number one issue". I must admit the side-track discussion is discouraging and represents a major reason why so many farmers are skeptical of what goes on at farm organizations. There is the suspicion that we fund endless meetings where people quibble and bicker about niggling process issues that derail them from actually addressing the primary issues. It appears to have happened here........

If an outsider were to view our above discussion in response to the question What is your number one issue?, they would surely come to the conclusion that things are not that bad down on the farm.

It would be really cool if this discussion could actually generate a list of 5 or 6 valid issues - surely this would be a more productive direction for the forum???

JC has provided her number one issue - COP coverage for swine sector. Others in the thread indicated competitiveness on input costs with US producers as a major issue. There's two. I'll add one - the challenge for general farm organizations to adequately represent the often disparate interests of both supply managed and free enterprise producers will become greater and greater. We have one leg over both sides of a fence.

What is your number one issue?
Well said Peter & Joanne
I think one of the biggest issues in the next couple of years is going to be interest rates. When they take of where are they going to stop and how many farms can afford to see a large jump in rates. It won't take much for prime to double and as things climb the cost of borrowing will also increase, meaning instead of locking in at 5% it might be 9-10%. With farm debt at all time highs who can afford that.
Brent Royce said:
Well said Peter & Joanne
I think one of the biggest issues in the next couple of years is going to be interest rates. When they take of where are they going to stop and how many farms can afford to see a large jump in rates. It won't take much for prime to double and as things climb the cost of borrowing will also increase, meaning instead of locking in at 5% it might be 9-10%. With farm debt at all time highs who can afford that.
Brent Royce said:
Well said Peter & Joanne
I think one of the biggest issues in the next couple of years is going to be interest rates. When they take of where are they going to stop and how many farms can afford to see a large jump in rates. It won't take much for prime to double and as things climb the cost of borrowing will also increase, meaning instead of locking in at 5% it might be 9-10%. With farm debt at all time highs who can afford that.
I don't see it as a derailment of discussion in the least. I believe there are a number of people trying to articulate a very fundamental aspect of the question.

The OFA is a quasi-governmental organization. It exists through legislation. It is an organization that has the legislative authority to speak on behalf of farm members which includes Crown corporations in its membership, such as the Corn, Wheat Soy boards. With legislative authority, comes public accountability with ever action/inaction of such entities. With legislative authority comes the expectations of measurable positive results. It's part of what we term, "due diligence".

The OFA made a PUBLIC request, asking the farming community "What is your Number One Issue?" stating further "Identifying the issues is just the first part of serving member needs. Once we know the issues, we have to work with commodity and other partners to develop possible solutions."

When a public body forthrightly makes a public request as such, farmers naturally have expectations that at least, in the smallest possible sense, their voice would be heard and solutions would be considered in a manner than would positively enhance them.

But how does one determine the "real issues" when there does not appear to be any tools presently in place to measure the success or failures of an organization such as the OFA. Where are the benchmarks to determine the effectiveness of the OFA and how are those results relayed back to the farmers?

The requests for complete comprehensive audits of Agricorp and OFPMC were considered by OFA. The President indicated that "timing" of the request for an audit of OFPMC was important. What are the measurable results? No request made to date. No request for complete accountability.

How about resolution # 06-03-395 - Closing snowmobile trails, submitted: March 1, 2006. It talks about revoking snowmobile access "until the farm income crisis is resolved as per the Farmers Feed Cities Campaign..." That resolution is closed but who measured the organizations effectiveness in dealing with the issue? Is the farm crisis over? Will resubmitting a request to deal with the farm crisis have an impact?

There's 04-11-282 - Use of Electrical, submitted: November 2, 2004. The issue stating the OFA "lobby government to institute various efficiency programs instead of promoting the use of “Smart Meters” on farms." Smart meters are now being installed with farmers worried about possible reduced electrical flow at critical times on the farm. Resolution closed but what was the measurable success of that issue?

Then there is 04-11-276 - Farm Plated Vehicles, submitted: November 2, 2004. Closed. Isn't there a case before the court today about a farmer transporting farm inputs out of season? ...

there are other issues.....

What were the measurable positive results of the former issues? How effective is the legislative organization in dealing with matters?

Farmers have expectations when issues are brought forward to GFOs. Are farm voices being effectively heard and are their issues being addressed with positive solutions?

Where are the tools to measure the GFOs ability to veraciously speak on our behalf? ... if that can't be answered.... we have to ask ourselves if GFOs are actually helping us.........or hurting us? Are we better positioned having GFOs speak on our behalf..... or are we worse off? Do farmers presently have credible lobbying vehicles?

Is the initial question just an exercise in futility?


Peter Gredig said:
Thanks JC for steering the discussion back to the original topic which was "What is your number one issue". I must admit the side-track discussion is discouraging and represents a major reason why so many farmers are skeptical of what goes on at farm organizations. There is the suspicion that we fund endless meetings where people quibble and bicker about niggling process issues that derail them from actually addressing the primary issues. It appears to have happened here........

If an outsider were to view our above discussion in response to the question What is your number one issue?, they would surely come to the conclusion that things are not that bad down on the farm.

It would be really cool if this discussion could actually generate a list of 5 or 6 valid issues - surely this would be a more productive direction for the forum???

JC has provided her number one issue - COP coverage for swine sector. Others in the thread indicated competitiveness on input costs with US producers as a major issue. There's two. I'll add one - the challenge for general farm organizations to adequately represent the often disparate interests of both supply managed and free enterprise producers will become greater and greater. We have one leg over both sides of a fence.

What is your number one issue?

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