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Existing agricultural advisory members to be core of committee to support young farmers

The County’s existing Agricultural Advisory Committee will form the core of the ad hoc committee looking into assistance methods for young, or new farmers in the municipality.

Councillors at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting discussed the creation of a new ad hoc committee, its members and mandate for more than an hour.

The municipality, in March, decided to strike a committee to examine ways the municipality can support young and new farmers negatively impacted by taxes from increasing farm assessments.

Councillor David Harrison stated creating an ad-hoc committee would be a waste of time.

“Why are we doing this when we have no money?” he asked. “All this talk and fluff about it seems to me about putting on a face over turning down the farmers on their application for a little bit of tax relief… There are many provincial and federal programs already in place for a lot of this.”

Councillor Jamie Forrester questioned the amount of time and staff hours involved to create a new committee and wondered at what point would it equate to giving the farmers the reduction in the first place.

Councillor Treat Hull was also not a proponent of the ad hoc committee and stated the issue should be tasked, with terms of reference, to the current agricultural advisory committee which he noted would also be an efficiency in savings and time.

“What is important to me is that agriculture is a key to our constituency; a major part of our make up as as an economy and a community. We have members of the agricultural community who have been appointed by us to be our advisory committee. To set up a new ad hoc committee is a total vote of non-confidence in the people who have been appointed to our agricultural advisory committee.”

Councillor Gord Fox said the long-term solution is for the farmers to lobby the government, and especially MPAC to make changes for young and start-up farmers and succession planning.

He noted he sent a memo to the agricultural advisory committee suggesting farmers could help farmers.

“Let’s assume we have 400 farmers. If each one of those farmers throws in $250, that’s $100,000 fund. The fund can be administered by the Prince Edward Farmers’ Association, set up a criteria and guidelines for funds to be used for property tax assistance only because that’s what they’re asking for.”

He suggested assistance would be in the form of an interest-free loan paid back within a year or two.

“The time limit for the program could be five to six years to help farmers adjust to the new MPAC assessment and subsequent property tax increases,” he said. “At the end of that five or six-year period the principle is going to still be there because it’s going to be paid back and everybody can get their $250 back.”

The idea, he said, then doesn’t cost anybody money and “we don’t have to worry about robbing our piggy bank because we don’t have a piggy bank to rob.”

Lengthy discussion and suggestions the committee could consider followed. In the end, councillors agreed the agricultural advisory committee should form the core of the committee with a member of the National Farmers Union included.

The hope is the committee would come up with ways to help young and new farmers for this tax year.

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  1. Argyle says:

    This issue should of been put to rest long ago. Council voted down shifting the tax rate over to residential, end of story. Time for new buisiness…….John Thompson, it’s over.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    OH Beth give it a rest. It is obvious we disagree, so leave it at that. You pay your way in life and I’ll pay mine – whether it is determined by percentages or dollar amounts, it doesn’t really matter.

  3. Chuck says:

    That is misleading. Farmland pays 25% of taxes of what residential pay based upon assessment.Everyone pays more when their property assessment increases unless the mil rate drops. The County like most all municipalities believe farmland owners should pay their fair share particularly since their land values have increased and their net worth. I do not want to subsidize or pick up the tab for someone else. I am sure farmers do not want to assist me with my out of control unsustainable water & wastewater bill! Farmers need to move on and stop trying to have others pay their bills.

  4. beth J says:

    In the end, this is a taxation issue. Should the County be able to raise ANYONE’s taxes by 120%?
    Yes–> then don’t complain when it happens to you and there is no financial accountability of PEC to its citizens
    No –> then the county has two options: Reduce the budget or reduce the tax cut given to residential.

    Those are the options the county has. It’s not the farmer’s fault that the County completely closed the door on reducing the budget. We should all be working together to hold the County accountable. The farmer’s are exploring the only option they have left.

  5. beth J says:

    Dennis, I’m not sure how to teach you about how municipal taxes work. Percentages are key to understanding all the pieces that come together to make up the budget. Think of the entire budget as a pie. Farmers were told that they needed to pay for 1.4% more of the pie meaning the residential class got a tax cut because they were no longer responsible for that portion. That 1.4% equates to almost a million dollars of the budget that needs to be made up by a much smaller population. Farmers are asking the County to be transparent about the justification behind this tax shift. They have not been.
    Without justification for the tax cut to residential, farmers are asking that the tax shift be reduced. They are not asking for you to “pay for it” but that your tax cut be reduced.You are accusing farmers of asking for a tax cut when in all actuality farmers are asking that your cut be slightly less.

    Anyone with a farm over 180 acres is looking at a over $3000.00 dollar annual increase. You read the paper incorrectly. The rate is going up $1000 PER YEAR for the next four years.

    I understand the difficult decision it must be to sell your home because it has become unaffordable, TRUST ME! With selling my home, I also lose my job, my sweat equity, and owe the bank most of the money back. When you are forced to sell your home, you can take your million dollars and down size into another nice home with a cushy nest egg. Not comparable!!

    I am very sorry that I wasn’t there to help you when you were struggling (although you obviously were not forced to sell your home). Ten years ago I was in highschool but I gladly would have given you $8.00 of my babysitting money if it would have saved you from becoming so resentful. At 18, I would have demonstrated more empathy and respect for my neighbours than you do at 65.

  6. Paul says:

    Its good to see County Council supporting Farmers by convening an ad hoc committee to look at ways to help Young Farmers. Again its sad to see the Johnny come latelys jumping to conclusions and claiming council will be spending their tax dollars inappropriately when the committee hasn’t even formed yet…

  7. Dennis Fox says:

    Sorry to hear of your woes, but the farmers have asked the wrong group to bail them out. It was your local OFA prez who pitted farmers against residential taxpayers – his suggestion that we pay for your taxes was simply wrong. It was also your provincial OFA rep who stated that no appeals have been made – don’t blame others for either of those things. What could and should have happened is for the farmers to request to council that everyone receive a tax reduction -and for council to reduce their overall budget reflecting that reduced income. This way we all could have been on the same side – but that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, residential taxpayers were forced into this, without any warning and have been victimized because of this contrived approach and were placed in the position of saying no. And now you expect me and others to explain and defend our position – I don’t think so! Frankly, this is not of my making and really it is not my problem. I’m sorry about your big tax increase, if true, I can understand your upset. But where were you when I and many hundreds of others experienced a similar increase when we owned waterfront property – ten years ago? Do you realize that many sold their homes or have been paying increased taxes over this same period of time? Are you aware that over 60% of taxpayers are seniors on fixed incomes in PEC? I hope that you and your family can work it out, but don’t come looking for me to pay your way – I have enough bills of my own to pay for. It is time to move on.

  8. Beth j says:

    Ok Dennis. We now live in your world where people don’t eat and the county can up your taxes by 150% whenever it wants.

    My taxes went up by $3500 a year. That may be nothing to you, but that is substantial to me. I’m a young farmer so increased land wealth means nothing as I have just been able to pay interest for the first few years. You don’t understand the business of agriculture. There is nothing if I sell. Nothing but 4 families becoming homeless, losing their jobs, and leaving the county.
    Stop insulting me with your waterfront “struggle”. Waterfront is for the wealthy, sorry. It is a luxury not a right. Take your million, buy another house and live very comfortably. If farmland becomes a “luxury” all of us will be in some serious trouble.
    If farmland becomes only for the rich, we’d have to live off corn and soy beans.

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    I think we need to start dealing with real numbers – percentages do not reflect the actual dollars. The Globe and Mail did an article on the situation here in PEC and did a comparison to other areas in Ontario that experienced large increases in farm assessment. This was revealed – – – spread over a 4 year time frame they averaged around $500 – $1000 increase. Hardly the end of the world as we have been lead to believe. What needs to be remembered is that residential properties have gone up that amount – 10 years ago! To my knowledge, no farmer came forward offering assistance, nor did we get a special council committee to investigate ways to assist us. No, many homeowners were left to deal with it on their own. I think the farmers should do the same.

  10. Gary says:

    When your property value increases you pay higher taxes. That is how the system is designed. To attempt to pass your tax bill to your poor neighbour when your land wealth increased is just simply unreasonable.

  11. Emily says:

    Councillors Harrison and Forrester did not support this save face committee. They realize there is zero $$ to support any outcomes from this group and the committee itself chews up tax dollars and staff time.

  12. Beth j says:

    Please review the numbers Dennis.
    Farmland in 2016 payed 1.5% of the County’s budget. Now it will pay 2.9%. In terms of dollars that is an incredible amount to be paid by a few 400.
    Residential got a tax break by not having to contribute that 1.4%

    How are you rationalizing that as farmers wanting YOUR money? They want some of THEIR money back.

  13. Dennis Fox says:

    It is unfortunate that some believe that we “Johnny come latelys” owe the farmers so much that we should be willing to pay their taxes for them. Sorry, but I don’t agree. Farmers depend on city people for their survival too – it is not a one way relationship and never has been. From the comments that I have read, it is obvious that only a few are reading what the others are writing. As a result, no one is changing the other’s mind, so there is no point in going on about this issue. BTW Beth, our property taxes are generated by multiplying the mil rate and assessment – you need both. Since MPAC was the one that increased the assessment, the farmers complaint was with them and not with the people/council of PEC. It was the OFA rep who said at a meeting that they had not appealed to MPAC – if this is not so, then take up your argument with him.

  14. Mark says:

    Thus the vast deficiency in our system to elect representative Councillors. We have 2 Picton Councilors supporting a tax shift upon their constituents. We do not have a County Council system as we all know. An at large voting and representative system would be truly able to stand or reject a position. We have Picton Councillors attempting to shift farmers tax onto the urban taxpayers they supposedly were elected to represent. Absurd!

  15. Gary says:

    So now the lame duck Council approves an adhoc committee. Two different years staff recommend turning down subsidized tax relief. Two different years Council votes down shifting tax from one class to another. So when there is no budget $$ for this our tax dollars now get sucked up by a committee. They vote it down twice but open Shire Hall doors for the lobbying to continue.

  16. Susan says:

    Well present a solution that doesn’t place the burden of property taxes onto others many of whom are in poorer situations. I don’t want to pay one cent towards lowering taxes of some million dollar farming operations. How do we assist the young family home buyers with taxes? As for the ad hoc committee,it is a waste of time. There is no money!

  17. Paul says:

    Its very sad to see the Johnny come latelys up in arms against the Farmers who played a huge role in building this County. The low cost of living that attracted so many to this County has changed drastically those who got in early and got sweet deals on prime properties are having to pay the piper now and they are upset. Farmers who pretty much bought and paid for this beautiful County are asking for some support yet newcomers don’t realize our heritage and the key role agriculture has played in making this place such a beautiful place to live. Yet they rail against chicken barns and businesses that have been here for years likely because they may drop their property values which ironically would lower their taxes. We need to support our local Farmers as much as we can they deserve our support and as far I’m concerned have earned it as well… Just my two cents.

  18. Beth J says:

    Dennis, I addressed the note to you because I am replying to your comments.

    You are mistaken about farmers not appealing to MPAC about their assessments. I was at the meeting in which this question was asked. Individual farmers HAVE appealed to MPAC, most did in 2017 when the increased assessments came out. On average, they have not seen a reduction or they would have not appealed to council. The OFA is continually working on the issue provincially.

    HOWEVER, again this is a municipal issue because they collect property taxes and they set the rate. Period. We are fighting for long term change provincially, but presently the tools needed to help those struggling now belong to council. You of all people should have some compassion regarding the issue as you have experienced it yourself.

    BUT waterfront is NOT farmland. Who has it fed? How many people work for your waterfront? How many people depend on your property for food, a future, their livelihood. It is incredibly insulting that you continue to compare your past situation as a retired individual to that of an entire community that is the backbone, heritage and largest industry in PEC that works incredibly hard to protect our food security.

    You walked right into how I described you before. According to your post, The County can never fix its taxation issues because it failed to support you, a waterfront owner when yours were raised (although it would be impossible for them to double in 4 years if you understood how municipal taxes work). That’s a terrible way to think, my friend. I was hoping I had been overly harsh in my character judgement, but I think I gave a little too much credit.

  19. Dennis Fox says:

    Beth –

    I’m not sure why you are addressing your questions to me. I can assure you that I am not the only one in this community who was opposed to the farmers request of having the residential taxpayers pay the difference of the farm tax ratio for them. However, I also want you to know that I did ask (and so did one of the councillors at the meting held in Picton) the OFA provincial rep if the OFA or any local farmer appealed their assessment? The answer at that time was NO. If that is no longer the case, then that has happened since the meeting. This should have happened long before asking other taxpayers to pay up. Why didn’t the local PECFA do that?

    Also Beth – about ten years ago, many residential taxpayers (I am one of them) had their taxes/assessments increased by just as much as the farmers did – by well over 100%. Many had to sell their homes or bite the bullet, without any help from our council or the farmers – I expect the farmers to do the same.

    As far as this new “help the young farmers committee” goes – well what more can I say? It is a token gesture.

  20. Gary says:

    Most farmers consider this just more government beauracracy . I agree with Councillor Harrison that this is a waste of peoples time. There is no money to support this adventure!

  21. Beth J says:

    Dennis, the OFA and other farm agvocate groups ARE appealing to MPAC and the provincial government. However, municipal property taxes are the responsibility of the municipality. Period. It is the county’s responsibility to set the tax mil rate for farmland to what they believe is fair and equitable. It is irresponsible for Council to continue to point fingers at MPAC and the provincial government when the tools to manage this situation are within municipal jurisdiction.

    As tax payers, farmers have the right to appeal to council and have it voted on every year. It is their right and prerogative as voters and landowners.

    You continually return to the “precedent” argument. “We can’t possibly give tax relief to one group, because then other groups might appeal as well.” Is that a problem Dennis? I think anyone facing an increase of over 120% in one assessment period should be eligible for some form of tax relief. It is impossible for most individuals to plan for this type of increase. Retired senior, young farmer, single parent would all face hardship over this massive increase. The County should be required to show justification for the need to extract this huge increase of extra funds from its residents. If reasons are not presented, then tax relief should be offered. It would promote fiscal responsibility by County staff and ease tax increase pressures for those struggling in our community. What is wrong with this? It needs to start somewhere.

    The arguments that “there are others besides young farmers struggling that need help too, why aren’t we trying to help them too?”. I whole-heartedly agree. Let’s look into helping them as well. It is flawed logic that has you drawing the conclusion that we shouldn’t assist young farmers because we aren’t assisting other families as well. Again, it needs to start somewhere. If we followed your logic, we can never support any struggling groups unless we support all struggling groups, but we can’t support all struggling groups because we failed to support you when your waterfront taxes went up. You have developed a no-win scenario that you need to break free of. Also, railing on the OFA for only asking for relief for farmers is absurd. They are a lobby group for farmers paid by farmers. It is their mandate. Simple as that. Young families need to advocate for themselves as a collective or appeal to their councilors to do it for them. Farmers have organized, other groups are free to do the same.
    If farmer’s are offered tax relief to help them better weather a 120% increase that the County hasn’t provided budget justification for, then others facing this issue will be able to appeal as well (including you). This is not a bad precedent to set. It would supply those requesting to support tax relief for other young families with an argument as well. It would put pressure on the County to operate transparently and with accountability.
    You speak of the distraction techniques being used to muddy the waters on this issue. Unfortunately, you have fallen victim to them as well. The county designed the farmer’s deposition to be presented after the budget was finalized so that the only option of adjusting residential pits the tax classes against each other. The deposition should have been scheduled BEFORE the budget was set so that the budget itself could reflect the relief and no changes to residential tax would occur post budget. PEC set the budget anticipating this large windfall, gave residential rate a savings, then pit the classes against each other to distract from the massive tax increase. Who is the manipulator here? Farmers for objecting and using their social credit to make some noise or PEC corp for easily getting away with a massive tax hike and convincing people such as yourself to defend their actions for them.

  22. Dennis Fox says:

    This discussion shows truly what the REAL problem is. It isn’t anyone personally, despite attempts by some to make this a personal issue. No, this is a perfect example of how a government comes up with a daffy taxation plan and then backs away, leaving taxpayers arguing about it. As I did point out to council, the farmers request isn’t wrong, but it is misplaced by asking local residential taxpayers to pay the difference for them. Instead, they should have lobbied both council and the province to change the MPAC assessment process – something that a previous Mike Harris government is responsible for. This would be a good election issue for the farmers to promote – so let’s see what they do.

  23. Chris Keen says:

    hockeynan – I usually ignore anything written by an anonymous poster, but since you continue to insist I was at a meeting, now in an arena, let me state again: I have NEVER attended a meeting on this subject at any facility on Earth. How’s that for definitive. Now apologize and give it a rest!

  24. Susan says:

    Beginning to think perhaps hockeynan missed the meeting!

  25. hockeynan says:

    I am talking about the meeting at the arena.

  26. Chris Keen says:

    hockeynan – I did NOT attend the meeting so could hardly “leave early”. Nor did I say “farmers make 300 dollars an acre”. You should be sure of your “facts” before you post them.

  27. hockeynan says:

    Yes Dennis I am a farmer but I will pay my extra taxes.I just came to the meeting to see what crap the people against us had to say.Like Chris Keen saying farmers make 300 dollars an acre.LOL.As for leaving early Keen left first then you left with a discoraged look on your face.It was so good to see so many non farmers on our side. As far as my name I am no going to publish it as it is none of your business

  28. Fred says:

    Perhaps there should be some policy and control on former councillors continually lobbying Council for self interest.

  29. Dennis Fox says:

    Oh hockeyman – you obviously were at a different meeting – what you described never happened. You obviously are a farmer who is upset about not getting their own way in this matter – which is too bad. However, Council did make the right decision by refusing to lower the Farm Tax Ratio. So please share with all of us your explanation as to how this new committee is going to really help anyone.

    By your kind of comment, you prove that real names should be required before submitting comments – this hiding behind silly nicknames lacks credibility.

  30. hockeynan says:

    Dennis,I hope your facts are more accurate than they were at the meeting at the arena that night.When you and Mr Keen weren’t getting your way you both stormed out of the meeting

  31. painterman says:

    If we are to support young farmers could someone please tell me what defines a young farmer. Is it age…length of time at farming ? This is a slippery slope.

  32. Mark says:

    David has had this right for weeks. This is just Council attempting to save face after voting down tax relief for farmers. There are a huge amount of youth that could use a hand up and most are not fortunate enogh to be owning very valuable land.

  33. hockeynan says:

    I am sure young farmers would like to clear minimum wage.They work 7 days a week 12 or more hours a day and after expenses things arn,t that rosy for someI am sure you have looked into this

  34. Dennis Fox says:

    Snowman – you will be disappointed to know, but I do base my comments on facts. While I do appreciate that is entirely different from your approach, I really don’t care to dwell on this topic any longer and argue about it. I just refused to be manipulated by people with nothing but self-interest to promote, usually at the expense of others. This Farm Tax Ratio issue and the follow-up Young Farmers Committee is a great example of this.

  35. Snowman says:

    “Frankly, young farmers have it a lot better than what do many other young people or young families”
    Dennis Fox:
    This statement implies that you have knowledge of both
    young farmers balance sheets and young families personal finances .I highly doubt that you have either.
    Your statement would be pretty difficult to back up with facts.

  36. Dennis Fox says:

    hockeyman – you need to read more carefully. At no time did I say that young farmers don’t owe money – I did say that they are not the only ones who need help. Many young people need a helping hand and I’m suggesting that this new committee needs to expand their vision to include more than just young farmers. Frankly, young farmers have it a lot better than what do many other young people or young families – why aren’t we trying to help them too?

    But I agree with the other writer(Argyle) and believe it is time to move on.

  37. hockeynan says:

    Dennis,you seem to think these young farmers don’t owe any money.They are in dept to no end.And with rising land prices it is even worse.You should look 8nto this before you rattle on

  38. Argyle says:

    Council just needs to say no tax relief. Move on. And John Thompson needs to move on as well. Giving tax relief to any group is a dangerous precedent to set.

  39. Dennis Fox says:

    Like many of the councillors, I too don’t see the value of this committee when there is no money to help them. As I stated at the public meeting – if council wants to reduce $500,000 from the farm tax, then they should reduce the entire budget and give all of us a break.

    If council really wants to help young people (not just young farmers), then they need to start looking at real ways to attract jobs and businesses here. At least these young farmers have a home, a job and land increasing in value by the year. Imagine being a young person with a $50K debt because you went to college or university only tho find no job at the end of it, or you have to move away from your home or out of the province to work. At lot of young people need help. This committee is a result of the squeaky wheel getting the….

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