By Patrick Meagher
HAMILTON — Ontario’s largest farm organization recorded a healthy profit of more than $1 million for 2018-2019.
It was the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s fourth stellar year in a row. Five years ago, the farm support and lobby group recorded an operating loss of $7,895. Last year, the farm organization posted a record profit of $1.6 million.
The OFA reported gross revenue of $10.5 million for the year ending Aug. 31, 2019. After expenses, its impressive surplus or profit was $1.158 million.
The lion’s share of revenue was $8.23 million from membership fees. The OFA is a not-for-profit farm organization with 37,327-member families, up slightly from last year’s 37,257 member-families. Each annual family membership is $225, an increase from $195 in 2018. That $30 extra per farm family accounted for the big jump in profit last year, said OFA director of finance and administration Jon Lazarus. He added that “Memberships are pretty steady. They don’t change much.”
Membership refunds were requested by 1,115 farms, down slightly from last year.
The OFA made donations and contributions of just more than $30,000. There were no direct donations to a political party, Lazarus said. “We don’t do direct donations. That would be a horrible thing to do.”
He added that the OFA has paid political parties in the past by paying for tables at fundraising dinners. That practice is no longer allowed. The Follow the Money database that follows political donations from 1997 to 2017, reported that in that time period, the OFA paid $32,534 in political donations, the vast majority to the Ontario Liberal Party.
Lazarus presented the OFA’s annual report at its annual general meeting in Hamilton last month and reported total assets of $13.5 million. Slightly more than $7 million were investments that included mutual funds and company shares. At year end, the OFA has $3.4 million in shares in The Co-operators Group, of which the OFA is a founding member, earning 5 % annually. The OFA owned $708,307 in Toronto Dominion Bank bonds, mutual fund shares (valued at $278,019) in the RBC North America Value Fund, as well as shares valued at $1,148,653 in Great West Life, $475,992 in the Royal Bank of Canada, $393,498 in Brookfield Asset Management, $373,275 in BCE and $344,750 in Bombardier.
The OFA has 38 full-time employees and 4 part-time northern region employees. Its 10 biggest operating expenses in 2018-2019 were:
• Field services: $1.69 million (covers 16 full-time and 4 part-time frontline employees, their travel costs and expenses)
• Finance and administration: $1.49 million
• County funding: $1.26 million
• Research and policy: $811,641
• Overhead: $710,986
• Communications: $489,482
• Board of directors: $427,378 ($23,743 on average for each of the 18 board members. OFA pays $300 per diem and 52 cents per kilometre for mileage)
• Canadian Federation of Agriculture dues: $317,436
• Executive members: $322,291 (Per diems include: $400 for president, $350 for vice-presidents, $325 for executive member and $300 for directors)
• Convention: $276,986
Also in 2018-2019, the OFA earned $543,557 for managing programs, mainly eight phosphorus testing programs (through the Adaptation Council and Environment Canada) to reduce phosphorus runoff.
The OFA also pays 20 pensions to retired employees. If one worked for the OFA for 25 years and retired at age 65, he or she would earn approximately 40 per cent of his working pay in retirement.
As a non-profit, the OFA does not pay income tax. Non-profit organizations are allowed to earn tax-free profits provided that they were earned through the normal activity of the organization and can be often be considered a cushion to cover operating expenses for up to six months in the event of disaster or unforeseen risks.
OFA enjoys more than $1 million in profits, $7 million in investments
By Patrick Meagher