Following another day-long hearing in front of the OMAFRA Appeals Tribunal on December 14, the accreditation of the National Farmers Union – Ontario as a general farm organization (GF0), under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1992, remains in limbo.
On May 23, 2012 all three GFOs had their 2011 re-accreditation applications denied, largely due to questions around whether or not the organizations had an explicit membership agreement in place with each of their members. In July, 2012 all three GFOs appeared in front of the Appeals Tribunal with new applications for accreditation. In early November, 2012 the CFFO and the OFA had their July applications for accreditation denied. At that point the Minister stepped in and amended the regulation. The amended regulation lists six criteria that a GFO needs to meet to be accredited:
- It has an annual membership fee of at least $195, including applicable taxes.
- It is incorporated under a general or special Act of the Legislature.
- Its purpose is to represent persons carrying on farming businesses.
- It provides advice and analysis to governments, administrative tribunals or advisory bodies concerning agricultural issues and the development of policies that are of interest to persons carrying on farming businesses.
- It has entered into, or agreed to enter into, an agreement with the Minister and the accredited farm organizations to provide special funding to the francophone organization that is eligible for special funding under section 12 or 13 of the Act.
- A farm organization does not meet the [criteria above] if it represents only persons carrying on a farming business in which only certain crops, livestock or poultry are raised or in which only certain agricultural products are produced.
The CFFO and the OFA submitted new accreditation applications under the amended regulation. On December 7, following short hearings (half an hour each) before the Appeals Tribunal, both organizations were accredited.
Since the NFU-O had not received any decision from our July, 2012, application, we had to follow a different path to try to have our application considered under the amended regulation. In addition to the criteria listed above, the Appeals Tribunal asked the NFU-O to supply evidence regarding how it meets section 4(1) of the Act – “[a]ny organization representing farmers in the province may apply to the Tribunal to become an accredited farm organization for the purposes of this Act”.
In its Fourth Interim Order to the NFU-O the Tribunal, dated December 5, stated that it was not clear to the Tribunal:
- whether the NFU-O carries out any activities to represent farmers or if the activities are carried out by the NFU;
- whether it is the NFU-O or the NFU which provides advice and analysis to governments and advisory bodies;
- whether the NFU-O’s purpose is to represent farmers or if its purpose is to access funding under the Act in order to allow the NFU to carry on its activities.
The Tribunal asked the NFO-O to submit a binder-full of documents in response to the order. On December 14, the NFU-O presented evidence and submissions to the Appeals Tribunal showing that we meet the six criteria under the amended regulation. The Minister also made submissions in support of the NFU-O. The Tribunal said it was not able to make a decision on the NFU-O’s accreditation on December 14 but said they understood the urgency of the situation.
What can you do, if you want to join the NFU-O through the FBR program? (Watch for updates regarding this section.)
- If the the NFU-O receives a positive response from the Tribunal shortly, we will be listed on the Agricorp forms early in 2013, as we have been for the past ten years. Due to the need for explicit membership agreements, there will be an additional step. After sending your FBR payment to Agricorp, you will need to contact the NFU-O office and request membership. You may do so through email, fax or mail. Once we have received your request for membership, we will send a letter confirming your membership and your membership card.
- If the NFU-O’s accreditation application is denied, you will need to register for your FBR number through another GFO. You will have to then ask the GFO for a refund and send your membership fee directly to the NFU-O.
- If you have questions about how to join the NFU-O contact Sarah Bakker at email@example.com or 1-888-832-9638.
- If you are concerned about how the potential denial of the NFU-O’s accreditation will affect you and your farm, please contact Hon. Ted McMeekin, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-326-3074 or Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 77 Grenville St., Toronto, ON M7A 1B3.