Thursday, December 6, 2012

OFA, CFFO gain accreditation

Guelph – The Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario have gained accreditation under the province’s stable funding system.

It means they are assured of a steady flow of revenues in the new year. In the case of the OFA, about $390,000 being held by Agricore will now be released and for the CFFO, about $44,000.

It has been a frustrating 18-month process for the two general farm organizations.

It also means the Union des cultivateurs francophone de l’Ontario will receive indirect funding via the two general farm organizations.

The situation for the Ontario Branch of the National Farmers Union will be the subject of yet another public hearing before the OMAFRA Appeal Tribunal on Friday, Dec. 14.

NFU co-ordinator Anne Slater, left, confers with
CFFO general manager Nathan Stevens
while CFFO president Lorne Small
 confers with Jason Bent, OFA's manager of research.
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Anne Slater, head of that organization, attended the third-round hearings for the OFA and CFFO here Thursday. 

They each lasted less than half an hour – a tribunal record for brevity – and the tribunal announced its decisions within 15 minutes – another tribunal speed record.

It was in sharp contrast with the 11-month wait for the original tribunal decisions after public hearings in June, 2010.

The tribunal kept raising objections surrounding membership and finally Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin intervened to sweep away 10 of the 15 regulatory requirements for re-accreditation.
That is only a temporary fix.

OFA president Mark Wales said there will be consultations with OMAFRA to ensure that the organization is ready to meet the membership and other requirements for the next round of accreditation. 

They are normally for three years and all previous renewals in the 20-year history of the legislation have resulted in re-accreditations without this round’s tribunal concerns surfacing.
The June, 2010, hearings were chaired by Kirk Walstedt, a lawyer from Maidstone, and two others tribunal members.

The second round of hearings were chaired by Nicholas Richter and the same two tribunal members – Mary Field and Jane Sadler Richards.

This time Walstedt had only one other member with him, vice-chairman Susan Whelan, also a lawyer from Amherstburg.

Slater said the NFU will be presenting additional information at its hearing Dec. 14.

Kristopher Crawford-Dickinson, lawyer for OMAFRA, said the ministry will also be making a presentation at the NFU hearing.

He told the tribunal this time that OMAFRA believes the OFA and CFFO met all of the reduced list of requirements for accreditation and outlined a commitment both have made to provide funding to the French-language farm organization.

Neil Currie said it proved to be helpful that the tribunal’s original decision was delayed until May, 23 this year because the majority of farm registration fees had flowed through Agricorp to the farm organizations.

In the case of the OFA, about 38,000 memberships came through before May 23, leaving about 2,000 outstanding.

The Ministry of Finance changed its regulations in October so those who had not yet received their Farm Business Registrations could receive some provincial government benefits, such as a subsidy for municipal property taxes and compensation for wildlife losses.