by SUSAN MANN
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario board declared Henry Wydeven of St. Marys the winner in the election to represent farmers in Huron and Perth (Region 10).
The board made the decision Wednesday during its regular two-day November board meeting. Graham Lloyd, Dairy Farmers general counsel and communications director, says Wydeven was declared elected “in accordance with regulation 760 of the Milk Act as having received the most votes.”
Wydeven beat incumbent David Murray by two votes. John Van Dyk finished third.
Wydeven says he ran to represent farmers in Huron and Perth on the board because “I felt that representation needed to be changed and the mindset for this area needed to be changed. I wasn’t happy with where things were going.”
The other reason he ran is the “whole question of communications and accountability,” says Wydeven, who is in his last year of being on the Perth Dairy Producer Committee. “I’m not saying the communications that we were getting was bad, but I’m talking more overall.”
Wydeven says it’s wrong that the Perth Dairy Producer Committee meetings occur after the Dairy Farmers of Ontario board meetings. Rather than the area’s board member telling committee members what happens at the board meetings it should be that the committee meeting is held and members are aware of what’s on the board meeting agenda to “give input to our board member, who now is me, and I can bring ideas from the grassroots forward. I have not seen that happening.”
Wydeven says he’s not being critical of Murray but of the “whole mindset of the system and I’m as guilty as anybody because I was chairman (of the Perth committee) too. I’m not blaming anybody. It is just observations that I’ve made.”
The Dairy Farmers board considered the Region 10 election results after it received a request to reconsider counting some of the ballots that were excluded. Twelve ballots were received after the Oct. 29 due date and they were not counted.
Candidates now have seven days to request a recount from the time they were notified of the board’s decision, Lloyd says, noting they were advised of the board’s decision electronically Wednesday. According to the Milk Act, if the board receives a notice requesting a recount it has to conduct one.
The top priority for Wydeven to represent the region’s farmers is “getting back to our main focus and that is marketing milk. We used to be the Ontario milk marketing board and now we’re doing so many different things it seems like we’ve forgotten what our focus is and that’s marketing milk.”
Another priority is getting more grassroots input from farmers and increased communication from the board and Dairy Farmers management team back to farmers. “I do not feel that it is adequate whatsoever,” he says. For example, Wydeven says he won the Region 10 election 22 days ago but the results are still not on the Dairy Farmers website. “Everybody knows about it but it’s all through other sources and that’s not acceptable.”
A third priority is accountability. “We send $34 million a year to Dairy Farmers of Canada for marketing and yet they can’t tell us what we’re getting for it and there’s no excuse for that,” Wydeven says, adding he has no problem with the amount allocated for marketing but “show us what we’re getting for our money.”
David Murray, who has been on the board since 2006, couldn’t be reached for comment. BF