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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Susan says:

    Beginning to think perhaps hockeynan missed the meeting!

  5. hockeynan says:

    I am talking about the meeting at the arena.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. Fred says:

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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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