Ontario’s three main farm organizations are not pleased with an Ontario government decision to allow the names of farm businesses to be disclosed in requests granted under the province’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO) and the National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O) have been informed of the decision made by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to release the list of names of all Farm Business Registrants (FBR) in response to the freedom-of-information (FOI) request.
“As an organization, we are disappointed in the decision of OMAFRA to disclose the farm business names of FBR registrants in Ontario,” said Keith Currie, OFA President. “We are concerned about the safety and security of our farm businesses and the serious risk this poses to them.”
OMAFRA has advised all three general farm organizations in the province that it intends to release the business names of FBR registrants but withhold the FBR number portion of the record. The names will be released to the person who submitted the FOI request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
CFFO President Ed Scharringa stated that, “We believe that farm business names constitute personal information and should therefore be protected. We are concerned that OMAFRA’s decision to release this information could lead to harm for farmers, their families and their employees.”
“Only 3% of farmers consulted by OMAFRA agreed to the release of their information,” said Don Ciparis, NFU-O President. “This is an unacceptably low consent rate on which to base an FOI decision.”
Although OMAFRA has chosen to withhold the FBR number information, they received expressed consent from 15 farm businesses to release both the farm business name and FBR number to the requester.
“Jointly, our farm organizations strongly oppose the release of this information as it has the potential to greatly impact the health, safety and security of our farm operations,” stated Currie.
That sentiment was echoed by a substantial number of Ontario farmers who voiced their input and concerns to OMAFRA’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator throughout the comment period. The overwhelming response from farmers was to oppose the requested disclosure of FBR information.
The process includes the right to appeal and all three general farm organizations expect to exercise that right. OFA, along with CFFO and NFU-O, intend to file their own formal appeal of the decision in an effort to protect the privacy and security of all Farm Business Registrants. These farm organizations will act on behalf of Ontario farm businesses in an attempt to prevent the exposure of this information.
All requests for appeal need to be submitted through the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC). If an appeal is filed with the IPC, OMAFRA requires notice of the submission via email at [email protected]. For more information about the appeal process, visit www.ipc.on.ca/access-individuals/filing-an-appeal.