by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Some Ontario pork producers are disappointed that a date hasn’t been set to protest if efforts to convince Ontario’s politicians to fund a business risk management program for their industry fail.
Delegates to Ontario Pork’s annual meeting in London this week defeated a motion to discuss a late-filed resolution from the Huron County Pork Producers about the issue. The motion called for the commodity organization to set June 15 as the date for a province-wide rally. Delegates defeated the motion 77 to 55.
Ontario Pork chair Wilma Jeffray says establishing the retroactivity of AgriStability program reforms for 2008 and 2009 is a more immediate priority than “a fully fledged up and running” risk management program. AgriStability is shared between the federal government and the provinces and triggered when farmers’ current year program margins fall below 85 per cent of their reference margins.
The 2010 provincial budget has also provided contingency funds, she added.
While responding to Wellington County producer Mike Petkovic’s question of why a deadline was not set to escalate action if agreement is not reached with the province about risk management, Jeffray likened a rally to buffalo jumping off a cliff: “You’ve done it and what if the answer’s still ‘no’?”
Ontario Pork belongs to a coalition of provincial non-supply managed commodities seeking provincial and federal funding for a business risk management program that would offer support when commodity prices fall below historical costs of production. The coalition is developing a series of town hall meetings that target urban politicians and media to make them aware of the situation.
Jeffray called the coalition’s approach “reasoned.” It’s engaging the public and makes the issue about food, the economy and agriculture, she said: “I think we will achieve more success by having a broader engagement with government and getting that urban voter with us as opposed to our minister of agriculture getting down on her knees and begging everyone.”
Petkovic said a rally would make consumers aware of the pork producers’ plight. He was critical of the coalition’s plans to wait until July to get national buy-in to the program. “And if that doesn’t happen, then what?”
Producers had given Ontario Pork board members “clear direction” to organize a rally at an emergency meeting in September and later in the fall, he said.
Jeffray said the establishment of the coalition itself was a significant achievement that has given producers a “much” stronger voice when negotiating with the government. “To say that’s nothing happening in July, we’re telling you in April there’s two significant events that are ongoing from there.” The events include a town hall meeting April 6 in Stratford and outreach efforts April 13 in the provincial Legislature.
Andrew Frew, a producer from Durham Region, supports the idea protesting, but wants more planning rather than more haste. “Let’s take those (protestors) and put them down on the streets of Toronto” to ask urban voters to support the risk management plan, he said.
“Because in the near term we’ll get more support from the government by doing that than putting 1,000 people on Queen’s Park to try and shame the government.” BF