IROQUOIS — South Dundas dairy farmer Josh Biemond finally had to pay the piper, coughing up a $64,000 tax bill he’d been holding out on paying.
Biemond, who runs Upper Canada Creamery at Iroquois, has been sparring with his township, South Dundas, practically since he opened the place. He launched the creamery in 2015, and the property was promptly designated an industrial site. Industrial taxes were nearly $20,000 a year; agricultural taxes would’ve been under $4,000. He stuck it out, not paying his taxes for two years, and had finally come right up against the threshold where the town would have to take him to court, when his brother decided to leave the business.
His brother leaving meant Biemond needed to buy him out. He needed a bank loan to finance that, and the bank wouldn’t lend him the cash unless his taxes were settled. And so, at the end of November, he said goodbye to the $64,000 bill that had been hanging over him. “I’ll never see that money again,” he said.
The third year of his holdout had seen a potential reprieve emerge. Ontario’s Bill 31, an expansive omnibus bill that changed regulations for nearly every ministry in the province, passed last May. It included a clause for the Ministry of Finance, letting counties create a special tax class for on-farm, value-added facilities.
Biemond applied for that special tax class and got it, but it only cut about $1,500 off his annual tax bill.
He’s frustrated and desperate for a solution that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. “I’m a farmer producing a product, and because I heat it up to 72 degrees, it’s an industrial act. But I have to do that to sell it to you.
“Doesn’t that seem extreme? That I have a $64,000 tax bill for heating my milk?”