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by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) is taking the province to court over an order to repay a 15 per cent assessment on quota sold by three producers.
On Jan. 19, DFO announced it is seeking an Ontario Superior Court of Justice divisional court judicial review because of “serious errors of law” in an Ontario Farm Products Appeal Tribunal decision requiring the marketing organization to pay $800,000 to the producers.
It’s the latest chapter in a saga that had its origins in the November 2006 introduction of the assessment, intended to keep a lid on quota prices. The producers, Bill Denby of Sunderland, Keith and Ron Jarvis of Seagrave and Dale McFeeters of Woodville, were among the first to be charged the levy and complained to the Tribunal that they had not been given adequate notice. In June 2008, the Tribunal ruled in their favour. DFO subsequently approached provincial Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky to review the decision.
Tribunal spokesman Lorne Widmer says Dombrowsky asked the Tribunal to add more details to its decision then took no action after the modified document was delivered to her on Dec. 9. Provincial legislation requires the minister respond within 30 days or the original decision is upheld.
The Tribunal has ordered DFO to pay the producers within 30 days of the ruling. That deadline passed earlier this month and Denby, who is owed $153,180, says he has not yet seen payment. “We’re of the opinion they don’t have the money to pay us,” he says.
Bill Mitchell, a spokesman with DFO, denies that the organization’s decision to apply for a judicial hearing has anything to do with its ability to pay.
“It’s an issue of concern about the law,” he says. Mitchell says DFO’s lawyers have provided notice of the intent to apply for the review.
In the meantime, talks with other Eastern Canadian provinces about harmonizing quota policies is casting doubt over the future of the assessment, the subject of two other, unrelated appeals before the Tribunal.
Ontario is the only province in the group that levies an assessment and it may be eliminated if harmonization plans go ahead later this year, Mitchell says. BF
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