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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Appeal Tribunal upholds 15% dairy quota assessment against widower

The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has upheld the imposition of a 15% quota transfer assessment by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) against a Smithville farmer.  DFO policies require an assessment of 15% on certain dispositions of quota by a producer. Dougal Lea Ltd., owned by Paul MacDougall and his late wife, Maryanne, disposed of its quota on the quota exchanges of May and June 2008, and a total transfer assessment of 7.186 kg was charged on the disposition. This means that 15% of the assessment was not offered for sale, but was retained by DFO, whose usual practice is then to distribute it to other producers as a general increase in quota or to use it to manage the overall volume of quota. The remainder of the production quota that had been held by Dougal Lea was then offered for sale on the exchange and purchased by other producers.

Dougal Lea appealed the application of the transfer assessment on the grounds that special circumstances exist that made the application of the assessment inappropriate. The special circumstances were that one of the two primary operators of the dairy farm, Maryanne, had died unexpectedly shortly after learning that she had an aggressive cancer, while the operators' plan had been to continue to operate the farm for many years.

This was obviously a tough case for the Tribunal to decide.  In the end, though, it erred on the side of limiting the circumstances in which an exemption would be granted.  As the Tribunal noted:
The Tribunal has a great deal of sympathy for Mr. McDougall's circumstances. We are not about to second-guess his choice to manage his circumstances as he did, nor to assess or finely measure the impact of his wife's illness on his willingness to operate the farm. We can understand completely his decision to spend his time with her, and his decision to leave the operation if she was not going to be part of it. [...]
These are difficult choices to make, but in deciding to give up the operation, Mr. McDougall was not choosing to exit the industry because of his own incapacity, or because the operation had lost its only primary operator. To grant relief in these circumstances would in our view expand the concept of special circumstances in such a way as to make a decision to exit the industry as a result of a significant operational change a ground for relief from the transfer assessment, and would negate the policy. We do not find that Mr. McDougall's decision was unreasonable, merely that this reason for exiting the industry is not one that should be exempt from the assessment policy.
Read the decision at: Dougal Lea Ltd. v. DFO.