David Cohlmeyer Sustainable Good Foods Consultant

November Newsletter

Growing Your Farm Profits (GYFP) is Oversubscribed

In 2008 the federal and provincial governments introduced a wonderful suite of programs to help farmers improve the business aspects of their farming. Many farmers have not fully calculated their Cost of Production, know how to easily project Cash Flow, fully understand the value of Retained Earnings, or have plans to build on their existing Brand. This is not sustainable.

The first GYFP program was to last 5 years (meaning it will expire on March 31, 2013). In order that all applications can be fully approved and paid by this date, all reports are due by December 15th. With the programs coming to an end, a rush of applications has exhausted the funds.

My client farmers were too occupied during last summer’s record heat and draught to prepare all the information I required. Now it is pouring in. So I am very busy compiling this information into spreadsheets and summaries. I must take time to fully understand the details. And then I need to carefully explain the significance of various ratios so that the farmers can appreciate the usefulness of this information. With a good understanding of the process and with understandable templates, they will be able to maintain useful records into the future.

Driving to farms throughout the province is time-consuming; but sometimes it is also awe-inspiring.
Driving to farms throughout the province is time-consuming; but sometimes it is also awe-inspiring. 

GYFP2 continues to be a Work-in Progress

Even though this multi-million dollar successor to GYFP is scheduled to be launched April 1, 2013, the reported progress so far is merely a pile of flowery words. There is still no firm indication if and how the suite of Business Practices will continue.

From reading Federal government press releases, it looks as though agricultural spending is scheduled to be reduced by over a $billion in the next five years. [Please remember that Canada already has the lowest per capita agricultural supports in the first world, so it is about to become even lower.] I noticed only two specifics for how this will be accomplished:

  1. The threshold to access AgriStability (income insurance) will be reduced from a 15% to a 30% drop in income. This will actually assist sustainable agriculture because it will discourage farmers from producing risky cheap mono-crops (while expecting the public to pay for periodic failures). Sustainable agriculture self-insures by including many diversities within the system.
  2. The support farmers receive from AgriInvest (a savings account) will be reduced from 1.5% to 1%. This is a further erosion of one of the few programs that actually benefits sustainable agriculture. A decade ago this support was 4.5%. Effectively, this program prepays expected risk payments. These funds can be used to build soil organic matter to reduce both draught and flooding issues, and to enhance local marketing to reduce fluctuations in price and demand. These steps prevent periodic catastrophes and the need for government subsidized insurance claims.

The Ontario government is now asking you to Join the Conversation. Participation need not to be limited to the agricultural sector. Since the public is paying for this, everyone should participate. The webpage provides some indication of what is being planned. It also offers a (poorly designed) survey for your opinions about GYFP2. Is this a new form of democracy?

The delightfully mild fall has allowed most gardeners to maintain a good supply sweet and tasty leafy greens.
The delightfully mild fall has allowed most gardeners to maintain a good supply sweet and tasty leafy greens.

Is the Mega Quarry really dead?

There is plenty of joy for the cancelation of the Mega-Quarry. It has been great to have so many concerned urban and rural citizens join together to change something our governments did not support. It is indeed wonderful to see what we can do together!

But there is already a cloud on the horizon:  A draft revision to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) regarding aggregates and farmland provides even more preferential treatment for aggregate extraction over prime farmland, water resources, wetlands, woodlands and wildlife habitat.

Sustain Ontario (SO) and the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) have drafted a letter of objection. This will likely also be signed by supportive organizations such as:

  • Canadian Chefs Congress
  • Holland Marsh Growers Association
  • National Farmers Union
  • Ontario Federation of Agriculture
  • Ontario Nature
  • Slow Food Toronto
  • FarmStart
  • Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
  • Greater Toronto Area Agricultural Action Committee
  • Local Food plus
  • Organic Council of Ontario

If your favourite organization is not listed, please have them contact SO or DSF immediately.

Keep in mind that the reason governments support aggregate extraction is that this can provide significant tax revenues. Agriculture does not. To help keep agriculture viable while competing with generous export subsidies from around the world, the province requires townships to give farms a 75% reduction in property taxes. 

Aggregates are a convenient way for township governments to make up the shortfall. Once again, the real problem is that food is too cheap. How can we expect Canadian farmers to continue providing the world’s cheapest food with the lowest subsidies?

Thank you Dalton McGuinty for the Greenbelt

In 2005, Dalton McGuinty took the politically risky but forward thinking step to create the Greenbelt Act. This halted rampant development to commence stewardship and sustainability on 1.8 million acres around the GTA. The act will assure ongoing clean water, local food security, and recreation (re-creation) space for busy urban dwellers.

We need to support his successors in understanding the value of preserving this precious jewel. And we need to continue helping the landholders determine ways they too can benefit from the Greenbelt. They have taken a big personal hit from not being able to sell out to a developer. So we owe it to these people to help them find profitable alternatives to (low profit) cheap food.

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Contact David Cohlmeyer

David Cohlmeyer smiling with his farm in the background
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6556 Line 9, RR #3
Thornton, On, LOL 2N0