HAMILTON — Ontario’s largest farm organization recorded a record profit of just more than $1.6 million for its 2017-2018 year.
It was the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s third stellar year-in-a-row and a remarkable turn-around from four years ago when the farm support and lobby group recorded an operating loss of $7,895.
The OFA reported gross revenue of $10.6 million for the year ending Aug. 31, 2018. After expenses, its impressive surplus or profit jumped to $1.618 million. Last year the OFA recorded $9.76 million in gross revenue and a surplus of $787,840.
The lion’s share of revenue was $8.23 million from membership fees. The OFA is a not-for-profit farm organization with about 37,250 member families, who each pay a $225 annual membership fee. Annual membership fees per farm increased from $195 to $225 last January. That $30 extra per farm family accounts for the big jump in profit this year, said OFA director of finance and administration John Lazarus.
Membership refunds were requested by 1,223 farmers for reasons that could include having registered more than one farm or needing the cash back, Lazarus said. He added that memberships have increased every year for the past four years.
The OFA’s annual report was released last month and revealed total assets of $11.6 million. Almost $7 million were investments that included mutual funds and shares in companies. The OFA has more than $3 million in shares in The Co-operators Group, of which the OFA is a founding member, earning 5 % annually. The OFA also owned shares (valued at $632,326) in the Royal Bank of Canada, shares valued at $620,129 in BCE, $554,814 in Great West Life, $503,386 in Toronto Dominion Bank, $492,525 in Enbridge Pipelines and $439,075 in Bombardier.
The OFA has 38 full-time employees and 4 part-time northern regions employees. Its 10 biggest expenses in 2017-2018 were:
Field services: $1.65 million (covers 16 full-time and 4 part-time frontline employees, their travel costs and expenses)
Finance and administration: $1.49 million
County funding: $1.15 million
Research and policy: $852,156
Board of directors: $352,618 ($19,590 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: $310,191
Executive members: $308,439 (Per diems include: $400 for president, $350 for vice-presidents, $325 for executive member and $300 for directors)
Also in 2017-2018, the OFA earned $522,021 for managing programs, including a $15,500- project for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs. Other programs included the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a two-year project to reduce phosphorous run–off and a three-year project with many partners to turn corn stalks into sugar and eventually into a type of edible plastic. Perhaps one day you will be able to drink a soda then eat the bottle, said Lazarus, OFA’s director of finance.
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. That means funds for a “rainy day,” Lazarus said.