Photo at right: Elbert van Donkersgoed
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by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal vice-chair Marthanne Robson will rule within a week on the scope of a statutory stay on the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission’s decision from last fall that effectively killed Ontario Pork’s monopoly marketing powers.
Robson spent most of the day-long pre-hearing conference in Guelph on Friday, hearing arguments from parties and interveners in the Tribunal hearing. Proponents of open or dual marketing, including two groups of large pork producers and the province’s three largest packers, Maple Leaf Fine Foods, Quality Meat Packers, and Progressive Pork Producers, wanted the stay to be lifted.
The judicial stay that has been in place since the first appeal of the Commission’s ruling prevented the planned abolition of Ontario Pork’s single desk marketing powers on April 1.
Agent Elbert van Donkersgoed, representing producer Rein Minnema, who was first to launch an appeal of the Commission decision, called for an absolute stay on all discussions about plans to change the marketing board’s powers. Other appellants, Huron County Pork Producers Association, and Districts 10, 11 and 12 Pork Producers prefer a modified stay that will allow talks to go ahead on a new structure for Ontario Pork.
The marketing board also favours a modified stay that will allow it to proceed with restructuring plans developed since 2006 and approved by pork board councillors last June.
According to an affidavit signed by Ontario Pork financial director Lloyd Bauernhuber, lifting the stay completely would allow dismantling of Ontario Pork’s monopoly marketing powers and would cost the marketing board $3 million in “unrecoverable costs” in severances, fixed asset write-offs, building reconfiguration and modification of computer equipment. If the Commission’s ruling was overturned it would be impossible to rehire laid off employees, Ontario Pork’s lawyer Sean Foran said.
Robson will not rule on whether the Tribunal will review last fall’s Farm Products Marketing Commission decision or set it aside and conduct a ‘hearing de novo’ into pork marketing. Late Friday, Robson said that decision will be left up to the panel that conducts the hearing. BF
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