Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taxation of Local Farming needs Improvement

Hi all,

A number of people have asked me what is happening with the results of the Farm Assessment Review Panel and the report they submitted this summer.

Today, in Debates, I asked the Minister responsible for an update. In a nutshell, he said the government is still working on it and they hope to make a decision on the panel`s recommendations for 2010 before the end of this year.

A number of you have also spoken to me about how unfair the farm tax re-assessment process has been as the decision-makers don’t seem to understand that organic farms are often structured differently than conventional farms: they may be smaller but still very productive; and they may make use of natural assets like buffer zones, or forested land as part of farm and if so, expect that these areas be considered as part of the farm to a reasonable extent when their taxes are assessed.

I raised the issue of how harmful the assessment process has been to farmers and got a commitment from the Minister to be included in their discussions as to how they move forward.
I`ll keep you in the loop and please share your thoughts and concerns with me.


Lana Popham.

PS. The picture is of Dieter Eisenhawer and I. Dieter is an excellent local organic farmer. (This is a picture of a recent visit I made to his farm: he is admiring my un-farmer-like fingernails).
PPS. Transcript is below.






Morning Sitting


Committee of Supply

L. Popham: I'm under the impression that the farm assessment review panel falls under this ministry, and I'm just wondering if the minister would be able to confirm that for me. 
Hon. B. Bennett: Yes. 
 L. Popham: The report was submitted this summer, and I'm wondering at what point the recommendations would be accepted or would be implemented for farmers in B.C. 
Hon. B. Bennett: When I saw the member come in, I turned immediately to the farm assessment review project briefing note in my binder. The member knows that there are recommendations that go to 2010 and recommendations that go to 2011. 
What I can tell the member today is that we are looking seriously at the recommendations that relate to 2010. We have not made a final decision. It's government. There's process to go through. There is still some consideration of these recommendations to take place, but we're well along in terms of thinking about how and when. 
With regard to the recommendations for 2011 and beyond, we are also discussing those in some considerable detail and trying to determine all of the implications of implementing those. We've got more time with those, and we're going to take some more time with those. 
L. Popham: I understand that there's process in government, but the reason I bring this up is because the destructive way that this assessment project was initiated has actually brought a lot of damage, probably, to my constituency, Saanich South, and it's damage that is not reversible at this point. We've had farmers walk away from their farms outside of the agricultural land reserve. 
I would like to impress upon the minister that the priority of finishing this project is crucial. The reason I'm saying that is because we have farms outside of my constituency — for example, in Sooke — that are trying to make future plans. The way that they have been treated through the assessment process…. I think the future isn't certain for the way that they're able to continue their business. 
The farm that I'm talking about is a farm in Sooke called ALM farm. They do a seed business. The future of it is in jeopardy because of these recommendations not being brought in, in prompt time. 
I would just like to make sure that it's a priority, and I would like to know if I would be able to be included in those discussions about which recommendations would be accepted. 
Hon. B. Bennett: I'm sorry. I took a little bit of time to discuss this with staff because I would like to be able to give as much assurance and certainty to the member as I can on this. 
I'd like the recommendations for the 2010 tax roll. We have the process that I referred to earlier. I'm going to do my very best to effect this change by regulation prior to the end of this year so that it would take effect in 2010. 
I'm not there yet, so the member and the agricultural constituents that she refers to will still have some uncertainty. They should know that we're well down the road on this. Certainly, the minister likes the recommendations and is attempting to get this resolved before the end of the year. I think that's probably the closest to a commitment that the member can get from me here today. 
L. Popham: That's fine. I understand that there is a process. I'll repeat again that I would like to be included in some of those discussions about the recommendations. 
Hon. B. Bennett: I'm sorry, hon. Chair. I should have responded to the member's request. I am more than happy to involve the member to whatever extent she wants to be involved in this discussion. Members of the opposition meet with me fairly regularly, and they're all invited to do that. Despite the fact that I might get a little testy in here with the member from Port Alberni, he's welcome in my office any day, if he has a problem that he wants to work through on behalf of his constituents. 
The same holds true for the member asking the question. I know that she is an expert in agriculture, so I would value whatever advice she has.