The last half of 2012 was busy for me, even took on custom combining to give me an extra reason to run home fast from the factory. And although the crops turned out good, the markets are favourable, it was still a tough year.
My appeal (Detail in a prior Blog) to have my farm land taxed at the farm rate came, and the decision made, NO you don't get the farm tax rate, you get to pay 400% of that rate. Reason, I missed a deadline to apply for a seven digit number from a farm organization that I was entitled to quit with a full refund after joining. Sounds ridiculous, but that is the system in Ontario. I had to deal with more government agencies that I ever knew existed all of which claimed powerless to do anything because thats how the legislation is written. That seems par for the course, nothing is set up to support a new farmer, the entire system is anti-small farm. It shouldn't surprise me, I live in a democracy, and 98% of the voters are not farmers, so why would the government make sense to a farmer. Its documented by lawyers, run by bureaucrats and propagated by politicians.
It goes beyond one ruling that I find hard to accept, there comes a realization that farming is a loosing situation. I have just been too blinded by a love of the land, desire to work with nature, be self reliant and control my own fate. Not things that a government wants and the policies speak volumes. The reality is most people get it, the evidence is clear, there are fewer farmers every year, and an ever increasing median age. It will take me 20yrs just to be as old as the AVERAGE farmer in Ontario. And why would I bother?
Sure, if i am lucky I can work on the farm my whole life, re-investing every sent into equipment and land, so I get to die of heart attack or stroke while loading grain when i'm in my 90's. Well, maybe I will be a bit loose with my money and drive a Cadillac in those latter years, that should make up for these hard years at the start.
The general feeling I get from comments on media sites regarding farmers is we are all rich and living a life of luxury on the backs of the tax payer. Its likely my fault I never applied to any of these "supposed" money hand out programs, i just wanted to farm without the government running the show...big mistake, they are going to find there way in anyhow. Of course these checks will have far fewer digits than I am lead to believe by those who know nothing at all about agriculture.
But things are good, the land re-assesment shows that my purchase of farm land has had a 220% increase over the two years I've owned it. (I can just see how low next years tax bill will be).
So I have a real important decision to make, do I pack it in, move to the big city with that high paying Engineering job, live in a comfortable house, where my garbage is picked up at the curb, I can get anything delivered to the house, reduce my snow shovelling to a short section of sidewalk or pay higher taxes to work a second job, live on a dirty poorly maintained gravel road knowing that every dollar i make will be spent to make sure I get to work more.
Its no wonder there are so few young farmers.
There is another side to this.
When I slowly drive down the road and meet a neighbour, we roll down our window and have a chat, blocking the road in both directions. And we do this until another car comes by. I could just imagine how many people would call the police if they saw this take place on a Toronto side street. Theres those friendly conversations with fellow farmers, truck drivers, and friends that take place on the side walks by the bank or in the parking lot at the beer store. And then there are the suppliers of seed and fertilizers who stop by to offer a drink, or take me out for a free lunch (granted I seem to always spend lots of money at those "free" lunches), these people are nothing like the government. They want to see me succeed, and for that matter so do the old farmers, who almost leave the impression that they are rooting for me.
When I was young I once heard: This country doesn't succeed because of its government. It succeeds in spite of it.
I think I am starting to understand what was meant. At least now I know its not just bad weather that can cause me problems, that is the least of my issues.
It wasn't a hard decision. This farmer plans to succeed in spite of all this. I may have made the wrong decision, but somebody has to grow the food, and I look forward to doing it for a very long time.