Updating regulations under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act, 1993 (FRFOFA), which establishes the Farm Business Registration Program (FBR Program), to support electronic delivery of the Farm Business Registration program, reduce administrative burden for farmers, and provide flexibility due to COVID-19.
O. Reg. 722/93
O. Reg. 723/93
Bill or Act:
Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding Act
Summary of Proposal:
The Ministry, working with AgriCorp (the agency that delivers the FBR Program) and the Accredited Farm Organizations (AFOs), is updating the delivery of the FBR Program, which is governed by the FRFOFA and its regulations. Under FRFOFA, farm businesses that make $7,000 or more are required to register annually. An FBR number is an eligibility requirement for many provincial agricultural programs, such as the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program. Currently, the program is largely paper-based and requires a significant amount of information as part of the registration process. The government is investing in a new IT system to enable a more cost-effective, client-friendly online delivery model, and the regulations need to be updated to support it.
In keeping with the government's Open for Business objectives, the Ministry is also taking this opportunity to update the regulations to improve administration and reduce burden for farmers, AFOs and the francophone organization.
The base regulatory requirements for the FBR program will remain unchanged, including: the requirement to register and select an AFO annually, program registration dates, payment amount, and religious exemptions.
Key changes being proposed include the following (see the discussion paper included below for more details):
Reduced Burden for Farmers:
- The requirement to complete a more detailed registration form every five years would be removed.
- The information collected as part of the registration process would be streamlined (e.g. information on education and hired labour would no longer be required, source of income categories would be reduced from about 80 to about 30 different categories).
- The amount of time farmers have to seek a refund remains unchanged, but a specific date (May 31) would be included for clarity.
- The time for farmers to resubmit payment in the event it has been returned would be extended from 30 to 60 days.
- Exploring the removal of the requirement to re-register every ten years for those objecting to payment based on religious grounds.
Added Flexibility in Response to COVID-19:
- Farm businesses that meet the income requirement in 2019 would be eligible for an FBR number in 2021. (Income from 2018 is used for the 2020 program year so is unaffected by this change).
Reduced Burden for AFOs/Francophone Organization:
- A provision would be added to allow for flexibility in meeting criteria related to annual meetings and elections in extenuating circumstances (such as COVID-19). This flexibility would also apply to regional meetings.
- Considering setting the term of AFO accreditation and special funding eligibility for the francophone organization at five (5) years, with ability to transition to those terms.
- Exploring changes to eligibility criteria for accreditation and special funding to reduce administrative burden for the AFOs and the francophone organization, while ensuring they demonstrate sound governance, financial accountability and value to Ontario's farmers.
Improve Program Administration:
- Clarifying the time period for which the FBR number is valid.
- Updating provisions related to the use of collected information.
- Exploring the addition of conditions to an FBR number, such as cooperating in a program audit.
Most existing regulatory requirements and the above changes will be included in a new Minister's Regulation, allowing O. Reg. 722/93 to be revoked and O. Reg. 723/93 to be reduced.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
The Ministry anticipates the proposed regulatory changes will result in additional flexibility for farm businesses impacted by COVID-19, a reduction of administrative burden for farm businesses, and lower program delivery costs.
The added flexibility to allow farm businesses that met the income requirements in 2019 to be eligible for the 2021 FBR Program year helps ensure that those farmers whose farm income was negatively impacted by COVID-19 continue to be eligible for an FBR number. This helps ensure that those farm businesses continue to maintain eligibility to important programs such as the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program.
It is expected the move to online delivery, enabled through these regulatory proposals, will provide an easy and convenient registration process for farm businesses. Currently, farm businesses need to contact AgriCorp if they want to change their AFO or update their contact information. Farmers will now be able to conduct their annual registration, select an AFO, make payment, and update select information through a single online portal, streamlining the process and saving time.
The removal of the requirement to complete the more detailed registration form every five years will further reduce administrative burden for farmers. Early estimates indicate this will reduce the total amount of time farmers spend filling out paperwork by over 7,300 total hours every five years, which represents about $200,000 in total savings every five years to the sector.
The regulatory changes are also expected to result in reduced program delivery costs. It is estimated that the online delivery will result in approximately $230,000 in annual savings once the program is fully transitioned to the new model. Additionally, the removal of the requirement to complete a more detailed registration form every five years is expected to save over $500,000 in delivery costs every five years.
October 1, 2020
Comments Due Date:
November 16, 2020
Farm Finance Branch
1 Stone Road West, Guelph, ON