You are here

Farmers should have P.O.S. exemption from H.S.T.

By Bette Jean Crews
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Motivating our governments to action has proven to be a long, drawn out process – at least where agriculture is involved.
That’s not always the case. Our provincial and federal governments have given the country proof that speedy action is possible, at least if Native Canadians and the G8 and G20 summits are part of the mix.
This was demonstrated when Ottawa announced it is prepared to offer concessions on the Harmonized Sales Tax for aboriginals in Ontario. All it took for the federal government to offer concessions was a threat by natives to disrupt Ottawa’s current pet project – hosting the summits in Huntsville and Toronto.
So, now that we know they are not intransigent on HST, we will remind the federal government that the use of the farm business registration card for point-of-sale tax exemption is an administratively simple way to roll out HST for farmers. As we argued before, what is the point in collecting HST on farm inputs only to give it back after a lot of paperwork?
While governments are in a progressive state of mind, the partners in the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC) – the non supply-managed commodity organizations in Ontario -- will continue to press for what is needed to prevent a massive failure within Ontario agriculture.
Improvements to the AgriStability program, retroactive to 2008, would inject $100 million per year into Ontario farm businesses, helping stabilize the farm community and the rural economy. The OASC partners are also anxious to see the implementation of a national AgriFlex program, enabling Business Risk Management Plans across their commodities to further sustain them for years to come.
Our commodity leaders have been telling governments we are dangerously close to a disaster in Ontario agriculture. This message is being reinforced by Dr. George Brinkman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph. Dr. Brinkman has analysed the farm income and debt statistics over the past three decades and concludes, definitively, that agriculture in Canada is in serious trouble. Regrettably, he also concludes that Ontario agriculture is in even worse shape.
Farm incomes in Ontario are negative – there is no way to make those statistics look good. Debt to equity ratios are unsustainable at present levels. Dr. Brinkman warns that stabilizing the farm sector is a critical task before the inevitable increase in interest rates tears the sector apart.
We need to keep showing that Ontario residents and the Ontario Government reap massive benefits from the work of Ontario farmers. The residents get unlimited supplies of the safest food needed to stay healthy and productive. Ontarians reap the benefits of jobs created by the agri-food sector, not only for the food processed and sold in Ontario, but for exports.
There are a lot of people benefitting from the food grown, processed, marketed and consumed in Ontario, but our governments are not yet listening. From something as simple as point-of-sale exemption for HST to real, bankable risk management programs we need to ensure our political leaders start leading.
The opportunity for leadership in agriculture presents itself in early July when agriculture Ministers meet in Saskatoon to review our situation and programs. We know Minister Mitchell will be fighting for our AgriStability and BRMP requirements. We need all Ministers to get on board to secure a better business environment for our farms.