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No reduction in farm tax ratio; committee to help young farmers

A farmer at County Road 28 works the field. John Ferguson file photo

Prince Edward County Council has voted to keep the current farm tax ratio at 25 per cent but hopes a new committee with find solutions to assist young farmers struggling with skyrocketing tax assessments.

Of the many plights this council has seen over the past years, including wind turbines, size of council and Save Picton Bay, councillor Kevin Gale says the farm tax ratio issue might be the number one topic that could potentially polarize the community.

“What I have found out talking with farmers, is not all of them support this (request for reduction),” said Gale. “One farmer said that when he farmed in the 80s he had to borrow money at 20-25 per cent. He said ‘I learned how to farm; I learned how to spend money and I got over it.’ They’ve had hardships; they’ve had and they learned to adjust – that’s their business.

“We’re not taxing farmers, we’re taxing land based on the assessed value recognized in Ontario,” said Gale, a supporter of the County staff’s recommendation to maintain the farm tax ratio. “We all like to see our assets increase in value – what we don’t like to do is pay taxes – on anything. I don’t like to pay tax.”

Gale sympathized with the hardships placed on farmers but said those shouldn’t be placed on others who are not responsible for them. He, and other members of council, expressed empathy for the young farmers, the next generation that wants to farm.

Following marathon discussion on the issue that first came before them a year ago, councillors agreed an adhoc committee be tasked with brainstorming solutions to help next generation farmers who are struggling.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation hike soared by an average of 110 per cent in 2016, well above the 13 per cent average for residential properties, and for some, more than double the 65 per cent average hike over the four-year period across Ontario.

Full-time farmer Elizabeth Johnston told council she attempted to challenge her assessment with MPAC, ‘to little avail’ when faced with a 150 per cent increase.

“This massive increase makes it particularly difficult for young farmers to get established,” she said noting an average income of $35,000.

“This increase alone, after a good year of farming, with no drought, no excess rain, good hay and of course, a lot of luck, represents eight to 10 per cent of my income,” she said. “I also bought the farm recently, so I have no increase in wealth. The MPAC assessment is actually less than I paid for the farm.”

Connor Sweet, a young farmer in Sophiasburgh, also appealed his assessment noting MPAC had incorrectly identified the number of acres, soil type and depth on his property.

“This tax hike threatens small farms,” he said. “We are already fighting weather, turbulent commodity prices and endless other challenges. We do not need another hurdle thrown in front of us… We are asking to be treated fairly so we can continue to farm and take these challenges on ourselves. Farmers are declining. Less and less are taking on the family farm because less and less can support even one person’s income… If trends like this continue there’s going to be one less, two less, three less, and it continues.”

The issue has been before council for the past year, brought to the horseshoe by John Thompson, president of the Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture.

“People care about their food and they care about farmers and are concerned for their future,” said Thompson. “Our organizations are advocating the reduction to ensure our County farms are viable for future generations.”

In supporting the new committee to assist young farmers, councillors stated they want to see terms of reference that could be put into place for assistance this year.

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  1. Chuck says:

    You could sell that math to some but reality shows that you proposed if you only paid a portion of your taxes and residential picked up the balance we were to feel happy with that because you paid more than prior. I wonder how a farmer selling a quart of maple syrup at $15.00 that cost $7.00 to produce and I offered him $12.00 and told him he had a benefit of $5.00,how he would respond. Public relations math.

  2. John Thompson says:

    The tax shift onto farmers could have been reduced and still leave a net benefit for residential. It’s just math.

  3. Gary says:

    How to assist young farmers struggling to start as opposed to wealthy farmers passing their tax responsibility onto someone else.

  4. Doug says:

    The council needs another committee to figure out farm tax fairness so what is their for them to understand.?

  5. Gary says:

    Bottom line John is your extensive lobbying failed to convince the majority of Council that others should pay your taxes. Call it whatever you want that is what it boiled down to. Had you been successful I doubt you would be dissing Council today!

  6. John Thompson says:

    This council has now raised the taxes to the farmers by 56% over this term vs. 13% for the residential sector. A monumental tax shift onto farmers, probably explaining why they are saying that they don’t like the term “tax shift”! They love cash cows and money trees though.

  7. Fred says:

    A perfect example of why we should be electing Councillors at large County wide. Picton’s councillors did not represent their constituents on this matter.

  8. Susan says:

    Both Picton Councillors voted to move farmers taxes onto residential.

  9. Todd says:

    Oh joy… another committee and no action. Typical government BS.

  10. Chuck says:

    This was the right and reasoned decision. As for the Ad Hoc committee for farmers that the Mayor boasted about in reference to the success of the Water & Waste Water committee one can only hope it has better success. 5 % annual increases and the highest rates in Canada is nothing to crow about!

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