By Patrick Meagher
GUELPH — Ontario’s largest farm organization enjoyed a healthy record profit of $1.75 million for 2019-2020.
It was the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s fifth stellar year in a row. Six years ago, the farm support and lobby group recorded an operating loss of $7,895.
For its year ending August 31, the OFA reported gross revenue of $10.79 million and an after expenses profit of $1.75 million, up from a profit of $1.158 million last year.
The lion’s share of revenue was a record $8.54 million from membership fees. The OFA is a not-for-profit farm organization with 37,362 member-families, up slightly from last year’s 37,341 member-families. Each annual family membership is $240, an increase from $195 in 2018. Membership refunds were requested by 1,045 farms, down slightly from last year’s 1,115 refund requests.
There were no direct donations to a political party, OFA director of finance and administration Jon Lazarus said. “We don’t make political donations. That would kill us.”
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 a one-day online annual general meeting of 270 delegates on Nov. 23 and reported total OFA assets of $14.6 million. Of that, almost $7 million were investments. By year end, OFA had sold its shares in Loblaws and its bonds in Toronto Dominion Bank. The farm organization held $215,060 in bonds in Brookfield Asset Management. The farm organization also held $3.7 million in member shares of the Co-operators Group (the OFA is a founding member), $950,607 in shares of Brookfield Asset Management, $803,075 in preferred shares of Great West Life, $653,095 in shares of Royal Bank of Canada, $385,890 in shares of Canadian Pacific Railway, $219,024 in shares of Riocan Real Estate Investment Trust Units and $179,212 in shares of Bombardier.
The OFA has 40 full-time employees and two part-time northern regions employees. Its 10 biggest operating expenses in 2019-2020 were:
• Field services: $1.649 million (covers 17 full-time and 2 part-time frontline employees, their travel costs and expenses)
• Finance and administration: $1.544 million
• County funding: $1.26 million
• Research and policy: $880,128
• Overhead: $749,083
• Communications: $354,501
• Canadian Federation of Agriculture dues: $325,373
• Board of directors: $289,317 ($23,743 on average for each of the 18 board members. OFA pays $300 per diem and 52 cents per kilometre for mileage)
• Executive committee: $286,897 (Per diems include: $400 for president, $350 for vice-presidents, $325 for executive member)
• Convention: $281,377
This year’s convention will be a huge savings over last year, Lazarus said. “There were no hotel rooms, no hotel, no meals, no travel. You are going to see a huge drop in convention costs.”
He noted that outgoing president Keith Currie can finally catch his breath. “People don’t realize how much work is involved,” Lazarus said. “It’s 24/7 days a week when something goes off. It didn’t stop.”
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 often be considered a cushion to cover operating expenses for up to six months in the event of disaster or unforeseen risks.
OFA enjoys record profit, earns $8.54 million in memberships
By Patrick Meagher