Resolution Responses

Response to 17-18 - BFO Representation on MPAC

The BFO Board of Directors understands the impact farm property taxes have on the financial viability of beef farms in the province, and supports a property tax system that reflects the realities of agriculture and cattle production in particular. We do not believe this is accomplished with the current system of assessments performed by MPAC.
 
As farm property assessments impact agriculture in the province as a whole, BFO staff have been in contact with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) regarding the issue. At our summer meeting in Simcoe this July, Ben Le Fort from OFA spoke to our Advisory Councillors about the recent property value assessment and the roles MPAC and Municipal/County governments play in determining how farm property taxes are determined. There are two components of the tax on farmland paid by producers: the assessed value of the farmland itself, which is determined by MPAC; and the farm tax ratio applied to the farmland, which is administered by Municipal/County governments.
 
MPAC’s assessment of property values is based on what is laid out in the Assessment Act with the Ontario Ministry of Finance. The Act mandates that calculated market value, derived from sales data for different quality classes, be used when determining the assessment value of different property types. As the assessment methodology is quite prescriptive, MPAC itself has little flexibility in how and when the assessments take place. In conversation with OFA, there appears to be three viable options for addressing the farm property tax issue:
Lobby for a change to the Assessment Act
Request an adjustment to the farm tax ratio with local Municipal/County councils 
Pursue greater farm representation on Municipal/County councils
 
Lobbying for changes to the Assessment Act will be a tenuous and lengthy process, but one that OFA has committed to pursuing, supported by research from the University of Guelph (UoG) and support from other commodity sectors like BFO. Current efforts are based on encouraging an alternative method for farmland valuation – one that is less susceptible to land price inflation from developer influence. Currently, researchers at the Food, Agriculture & Resource Economics department at UoG are constructing a comprehensive dataset on farmland rental rates to serve as a resource that can provide more accurate assessments of farmland – an endeavor supported by MPAC. BFO staff have arranged to attend future meetings on this issue, in order to provide input and support where needed.
 
In the short term, the most effective way to influence the property tax paid on farmland is to make a formal request with your local Municipal/County councils to set farm tax ratios that will not increase the proportional burden of property taxes on producers. This is an area in which OFA is again engaged, helping to coordinate local agriculture federations with council sessions to provide a strong voice in representing producer interests. Stronger beef involvement would be of value for these council sessions. For the purpose of facilitating this involvement, BFO staff have made available a template letter for county beef associations to use when requesting an audience at council. This template is attached to this letter. We would encourage the local county and district associations to consider drafting a letter to their municipal/county council highlighting the need for a more equitable and fair farm tax ratio. 
 
For any questions regarding your county’s land assessment statistics, please contact OFA or the BFO office. If you are looking to coordinate with your local agricultural federations at county meetings, Ben LeFort has been serving as a liaison between producers and their local councils, and is eager to incorporate local beef associations. He can be reached at 519.821.8883 x.222, or ben.lefort@ofa.on.ca.
 

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