by SUSAN MANN
Organic supporters are trying again to change a Turkey Farmers of Ontario rule requiring turkeys be housed under a solid roof by asking Ontario’s agriculture minister to intervene.
The Organic Council of Ontario sent a formal request to Ontario Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky on Sept. 29 asking her to instruct Turkey Farmers to change its rule. The Council has also asked its supporters to send post cards to the minister.
Ted Zettel, Council board member, says farmers should be allowed to let birds outside and it’s an abuse of Turkey Farmers’ power to force every farmer into the “same total confinement paradigm.”
He notes that the rule “effectively prevents the growth of the organic supply in Ontario and will allow other provinces and U.S. suppliers to feed the ever-increasing demand for organic turkey.”
Ingrid DeVisser, Turkey Farmers’ chair, says they’ve spoken to the minister in July and “she fully understands our perspective.” In addition, letters of support from major processors, breeding and feed companies, plus some large producers were sent to the minister.
DeVisser denies Turkey Farmers’ rule is an abuse of power. “We have been given the power to regulate production of turkey in Ontario.” She says the regulation is needed to mitigate disease risks.
The regulation came into effect in May, 2008. It specifies that all outdoor enclosures have a solid roof and either solid walls or wire mesh with openings no bigger than one square inch. All feed and water must be under the solid roof. Farmers producing less than 50 turkeys annually are exempt.
This is the latest in a series of attempts by organic supporters to get the rule changed. In 2008, organic turkey farmers Matthew and Janice Dick of Markdale appealed the rule to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal. The Tribunal denied the Dicks’ request to rescind the policy.
The Organic Council and Turkey Farmers discussed the matter with the Farm Products Marketing Commission this summer but those talks didn’t lead to a solution. BF