by SUSAN MANN
Two groups are turning up the heat on Chicken Farmers of Ontario with plans to launch separate appeals to an agricultural tribunal challenging the organization’s rules on the number of birds farmers can raise without quota.
Both Sean McGivern, president of Practical Farmers of Ontario, and Glenn Black, president of the Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada, want the number of chickens farmers can raise without quota to be increased to 2,000 birds annually from 300, and that farmers be given the ability to market their birds beyond the farm gate. But the groups, which are each working to launch their challenges at the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, are keeping their appeals separate.
Michael Edmonds, Chicken Farmers of Ontario director of communications and government relations, says they don’t have any comment on any potential tribunal request.
McGivern says Practical Farmers is still working on its package of information to file with the tribunal and they should be ready to send it in by the end of August or the beginning of September.
He says he has learned “you can’t be detailed enough” when sending information to the tribunal and that’s why “we haven’t moved hastily just to send something in right off the hop. We’re really trying to put something together that proves a solid case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Black, a Manitoulin Island small flock grower, says he too is in the process of putting his information together to file an appeal at the tribunal. He says he contacted the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission about his concerns and they referred him to the tribunal.
Black would not disclose the number of members in his group noting that the membership has asked him to keep the information confidential. According to Practical Farmers’ website, it has more than 200 members.
Chicken Farmers has so far refused to alter its policies. It told Black in a Feb. 25 letter it would review his comments and concerns during any policy review and renewal of its small flock regulation. It has also twice turned down Practical Farmers’ request to change the small flock policies.
Black has a number of other concerns about Chicken Farmers in addition to its policies on small flocks, which he wants to raise at the tribunal. For example, he says he wanted to attend Chicken Farmers’ annual meeting this spring “to learn and find out more” but was told he couldn’t go and couldn’t be a member of the organization.
Under the Chicken Farmers regulations “it sounds like anyone who raises chickens can be a member,” he says. “They’re not even following their own rules.” Black notes as a small flock grower he’s subjected to the organization’s rules “but we have no input on the rules.”
Kirk Walstedt, tribunal chair, says by email once the tribunal receives a valid appeal and it has the necessary information to proceed, staff contact the people involved and work out the length of time needed for the appeal along with the dates it will be heard. After finalizing the date and length of time needed, the tribunal posts a notice outlining the dates, times and location of the appeal. It also establishes the dates all documents must be submitted and exchanged with the people involved.
There are times when the tribunal turns down a request for a hearing due to lack of jurisdiction, he says. The tribunal can also refuse to hear a matter or discontinue after a hearing has started if, in its opinion, the subject matter is trivial, the appeal is frivolous or vexatious, or not made in good faith or the appellant doesn't have sufficient interest in the subject.
The tribunal turned down three requests for hearings in the past year, he says. Two were drainage matters and the tribunal didn't have the jurisdiction under the Drainage Act to hear them. The he third was a farm product issue but the person requesting the hearing didn't yet have a hearing before their board and neither party waived its right to that hearing, which is a precondition for an appeal of a marketing board matter to the tribunal, he says. BF