Farm­ers are feel­ing a lit­tle bit like they’re un­der siege

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - FIELD NOTES

WHILE TRY­ING TO HAR­VEST a crop this September, Cana­dian farm­ers have be­come un­der­stand­ably dis­tracted and feel­ing a lit­tle unloved. And un­der­stand­ably so. The first vol­ley came from Ot­tawa in the form of a very un­pop­u­lar pro­posed busi­ness tax amend­ment that will have an im­pact on many peo­ple, in­clud­ing farm­ers. It in­volves loop­holes that al­low pro­fes­sion­als, such as doc­tors and farm­ers, to in­cor­po­rate them­selves, and then draw in­come from their busi­nesses while pay­ing lower cor­po­rate taxes.

Ot­tawa is con­cerned be­cause the num­ber of cor­po­ra­tions in Canada has grown eight-fold in 50 or so years, and the sus­pi­cion is many cor­po­ra­tions have formed as a way to avoid tax.

Some farm­ers in­cor­po­rate, though, to pro­tect their as­sets. Farm­ing costs a lot of money. As the world grows and farms get big­ger, equip­ment costs and sup­plies grow too. In­cor­po­rat­ing is of­ten ad­vised for le­gal rea­sons.

The farm com­mu­nity re­sents the im­pli­ca­tion that

some of its mem­bers are tak­ing ad­van­tage of this so­called tax shel­ter, or worse, cheat­ing. Dur­ing har­vest – and dur­ing the long week­end – so­cial me­dia chan­nels came alive with crit­i­cism of the pro­posal.

“Hey @JustinTrudeau @Bil­l_Morneau I’m in my tax shel­ter im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and help­ing feed the world on a Hol­i­day Mon­day how bout U!” said one prairie farmer, who drew more than 1,600 likes and al­most 1,000 retweets with this tweet and a photo from his com­bine.

Things didn’t get any bet­ter when A&W Res­tau­rants stepped up on twit­ter to tell out­go­ing Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and his 91,000 fol­low­ers that the com­pany does its best to source its beef from Canada, “but there sim­ply isn’t enough that matches our stan­dards.”

Yikes! Talk about wav­ing a red flag in front of a bull.

A&W is still seen as evil by many farm­ers and ranch­ers be­cause of its ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing cam­paign that calls into ques­tion the qual­ity of much of the Cana­dian live­stock sec­tor. Said On­tario farm ad­vo­cate Terry Day­nard: “A&W beef is com­monly re­ferred to as mys­tery meat. Ori­gins un­known.” Added for­mer fed­eral min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture Gerry Ritz: “Off-shore old grass-fed cows.”

And fi­nally, a report sur­faced from a pub­li­ca­tion called Global Meat News that re­ported the UK meat sec­tor was court­ing Cana­dian im­porters. It said Cana­dian im­porters vis­ited the UK to ex­pe­ri­ence the coun­try’s stan­dards in meat pro­duc­tion, and that the re­sults were pleas­ing to the Cana­di­ans.

Are you kid­ding me? The UK meat sec­tor?

Not that the Cana­dian meat-pro­cess­ing sec­tor is un­blem­ished fol­low­ing the re­cent report of mis­la­belling in sausage. But the UK has among the worst record for meat scan­dals. The de­ba­cle a few years ago in­volv­ing mis­la­belled horse­meat there still stings the en­tire meat sec­tor. Be­fore that, it was the broad ap­pear­ance of mad cow dis­ease in the UK, ac­com­pa­nied by heart-wrench­ing pho­tos of en­tire herds be­ing de­stroyed.

No one wants to see this and in­deed the UK took ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sures to fix the prob­lems. How­ever, there’s no ques­tion these mem­o­ries res­onate.

And what about do­mes­tic pro­duc­ers? How do Cana­dian im­porters ex­plain shopping abroad for beef to farm­ers here who are vy­ing for mar­ket share?

Pro­ducer or­ga­ni­za­tions like Cana­dian Beef work their tails off here to show peo­ple how beef is pro­duced and why it’s among the best in the world. I guess they’ll have their work cut out for them even more so now.

Bri­tish beef knock­ing on the door from Cana­dian im­porters, an Amer­i­can­based fast food chain say­ing Cana­dian beef doesn’t mea­sure up, and Ot­tawa sug­gest­ing farm­ers may be hid­ing tax dol­lars … well, hope­fully the weather will hold up for this fall’s har­vest, be­cause that’s about the only thing some farm­ers can look for­ward to.

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