Op Ed: Equity or Equitable? – MPAC Assessments Highlight Farmland Challenges

by Emery Huszka, NFU-O President

Recently, farm families across Ontario have received MPAC notices reflecting dramatic changes in values. In some cases, assessment estimates are doubled from 2012. MPAC has captured what the National Farmers Union-Ontario (NFU-O) has been warning of for years. (See the NFU report Losing Our Grip: 2015 Update). Investors and heavily financed, large-scale farm operations have created an environment of unsustainable land prices.

The NFU-O acknowledges the challenges facing municipalities, in particular, the exodus away from unaffordable land, which leaves in its wake rural school closures, under-funded public rural infrastructure, and weakened the farm-learned skills of our population, but our immediate concern is the significant financial impact MPAC’s new assessments will have on farmers’ income due to increased taxes should mill rates stay the same.

We have sent a letter calling on municipal leaders to immediately scale back their respective mill rates to counter the artificially created land values. We are also calling on the provincial government to immediately adjust farm-funding models to encourage the revival of farm populations by making land more accessible to smaller scale operations.  Finally, the NFU-O is encouraging its members to speak with municipal officials and request appropriate mill rates.

The problems we face are driven by a misconception that a free-for-all, unrestricted capitalist approach to farming is in society’s best interest, but the reality is this approach is solely in the interest of corporate consolidation and gives corporations even more control of the food we produce and eat. Food and the land on which it is produced is not, nor should it ever be, a liquid commodity.

Reclaiming food sovereignty starts with ensuring that farmers can afford the land they farm. We do this by rebuilding links between urban and rural Ontario and instituting real rules to stop the pillaging of land for equity development. We ask our municipal leaders to not further inflame the challenges smaller operations face by immediately committing to adjusting mill rates to acknowledge the artificial land values created by lack of government oversight.

Emery Huszka is a grain farmer in Florence, ON. He is the NFU Region 3 Coordinator and President of National Farmers Union–Ontario.