Request for Ontario farm names withdrawn

Freedom of Information request had drawn significant farmer concern

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The agriculture community is celebrating a win after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for all Farm Business Registrants was withdrawn.

“Together, our farm organizations strongly opposed the release of this information as it has the potential to greatly impact the health, safety and security of our farm operations,” said Keith Currie, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president.

“We are very pleased to report that the matter has been resolved, the FOI has been dropped and we can move forward with the significant priorities of the Ontario agriculture sector.”

In late June 2020 the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) sent a letter to approximately 490 farmers and farm business in Ontario alerting them to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The unidentified individual requested, “If possible I would like their FBR (Farm Business Registration) number as well, but at the very least, I just need the names of the business that are registered.”

The request was seeking information from March 1, 2019, to Feb. 28, 2020.

Immediately the three General Farm Organizations, Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), CFFO, and the National Farmers Union–Ontario (NFU-Ontario) launched an offensive advocating on behalf of their members to protect the disclosure of farm business names from OMAFRA’s records.

At the time the NFU–Ontario argued the FOI request could potentially enable animal activists to target livestock operations, the FBR number being used to fraudulently qualify for farm tax rates or farm vehicle licence plates and for the commingling of business and personal information in many farm businesses.

Currie said after a lengthy mediation period led by the OFA and their legal counsel all three groups are pleased the request was dropped.

 – With files from Stew Slater

About the author

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Diana Martin

Diana Martin has spent more than two decades in the media sector, first as a photojournalist and then evolving into a multi-media journalist. Five years ago she left mainstream media and brought her skills to the agriculture sector. She owns a small farm in Amaranth, Ont.

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