© Copyright AgMedia Inc
By GEOFF DALE
Some industry insiders say a pork producer’s appeal to set aside the recently created committee that strips the Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board of its marketing powers could be just the tip of an emerging iceberg of opposition.
In a detailed letter this week to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, Glencoe producer Rein Minnema called for a plebiscite by all producers of market hogs and a hearing by the Farm Products Marketing Commission seeking a new approach to the ongoing subject.
The commission announced the makeup of the new committee in late November.
Acting as Minnema’s official agent, Elbert van Donkersgoed says the letter is a reflection of the majority view of all producers of market hogs.
“The first two requests in the letter are key to the process,” he explains, saying the decision to create the committee, “must be set aside in its entirety and then a plebiscite held.
“If the tribunal grants this and a hearing follows, then we can proceed with looking into a different and better approach to this situation.”
He says, in the event the tribunal agrees to the request, Minnema will prepare a witness statement, reiterating the points he made in the letter and adding further thoughts as to why a plebiscite is necessary.
A tribunal spokesperson says a decision could be made within two weeks or longer, depending on the complexity and perceived urgency of the issue under appeal. If a hearing is granted, parties including the commission would be contacted to determine an acceptable schedule for all participants.
Aware Minnema had contacted the tribunal about two weeks ago, Ontario Pork chair Curtiss Littlejohn says the board is waiting on the tribunal decision before planning its next move.
“Once the tribunal has decided on the matter, the board of directors will then have to choose a course of action,” he says. “We will be monitoring it closely to see how the situation evolves.”
Minnema’s letter is the only official sign of opposition to the committee. Littlejohn admits he has heard “chatter in the countryside” about other appeals but nothing concrete.
Doug Ahrens, chair of the Perth County Pork Producers, says it’s more than just chatter, alluding to “stuff in the works” in addition to this week’s correspondence and another one from a Lambton farmer.
“I’m not 100 per cent prepared to say anything definite yet but I think Huron is working on an appeal,” he says. “We’ve pussyfooted around things trying to be nice but it’s time the pussyfooting is done. This is going to start to get a little divisive.”
He says some Perth County producers are working on the issue and he wants to get a handle on the situation at the next producers meeting.
“There is a very big portion of the producer base that has not been heard in this whole process,” he adds. “Some have been a bit complacent, hoping this thing would go away but there are definitely things in the works.”
District five representative Jasper Vanderbas is concerned about the potential of more discontent.
“There is a lot of work being done right now that may or may not be valid,” he says, noting the Commission has ordered the board to start work and expects it to meet deadlines.
“If an appeal process goes ahead, then everything stops. So if an appeal is to be held, let’s hope it’s as soon as possible so we don’t end up spending money on restructuring, and then have to reverse that again.” BF