August 6, 2022

Later in August, the RM of Barrier Valley will conduct a referendum on whether the voters want this RM to become a member of one of Saskatchewan’s “farmer support groups”, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

At their Information Meeting held in Archerwill on March 30, 2005, I asked APAS representative, Don Saelhof, how I could gain access to the organization’s financial reports, since there were no financial statements available on their website or at the meeting. Mr. Saelhof admitted that he hadn’t even thought to bring financial statements with him (…to an Information Meeting?!) but agreed that when you are dealing with other people’s money, transparency is very important in showing how it is being spent. He asked me to email him and he would forward the statements to me.

I sent two messages to Mr. Saelhof, one on March 31 and another on April 12, requesting the financial statements, but didn’t receive a reply to either of them. On April 26, the RM Administrator requested this information from Mr. Saelhof. In reply, she received a faxed copy of the “2003/04 audited financial statement” with a covering letter which stated: “We will on a request basis provide the statement on the condition that it is for viewing only by the public, i.e. a hard copy may not be provided to go out of your office.” How can one subscribe to transparency about how one uses other peoples’ money when there is such reluctance to reveal this information?

I also asked Mr. Saelhof at the March meeting how much would it cost me, a small landowner, to participate in the APAS Health and Dental Benefits Program? Mr. Saelhof’s answer: I can’t. It is available only to incorporated ‘farms’!

On page 21 of their Winter 2004/05 magazine, Ag Connections, it states: “There is an annual administration fee of $250 (plus GST) per corporation to enroll their participants in the APAS HSA (Health Spending Account) program….”. Further, from an APAS document entitled Overview of APAS Member Benefit Programs: “The Health Spending Account program provides directors and employees of farm corporations with full re-imbursement of their medical expenses, as allowed by CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). This re-imbursement is provided to them personally, on a tax-free basis. In addition the medical expense becomes a full business deduction for the corporation.”

My final question concerned how much it would cost the RM of Barrier Valley for membership in APAS? The answer: about $7,000.00 to join and an annual renewal fee of about $7,000.00. How much will my taxes increase or what services will be cut in order to pay this fee?

In summary, APAS is reluctant to reveal financial information on how much membership money they collect from about half of the province’s RMs (in 2003/2004, over $1 million - tax-free since it is a non-profit organization) or how they spend it (mostly on travel, hotels and per diems). Also, because I don’t have an incorporated ‘farm’, I am unable to participate in the APAS Medical and Dental Program. And, finally, if the result of the referendum favours joining APAS, I have no option; my tax money will help fund the RM of Barrier Valley’s membership in APAS.

One must ask the question …for what? How does this program really support the family farmer?

Elaine Hughes

Archerwill, SK