by SUSAN MANN
Outspoken critic of the supply management system for chicken, Glenn Black, says he plans to launch a lawsuit against chicken industry groups as well as the Ontario and federal governments.
And if he indeed ends up pursuing the matter, “we’ll meet him in court,” says Mike Dungate, executive director of Chicken Farmers of Canada.
The national organization is one of two Black says he is naming in his lawsuit. Chicken Farmers of Ontario is the other. Along with the provincial and federal government, he also plans to name the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.
In a Jan. 31 email, Black says his proposed lawsuit is an “attempt to blaze a trail on behalf of all Canadians for getting a full accounting” for what he claims are “bogus” charges connected to feed conversion ratios – the amount of feed it takes to put one pound of meat on a chicken. He claims the country’s supply managed chicken industry “took at least $10 billion in unjust enrichment for themselves over the last 10 years by bogus FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio) charges.”
Black also alleges in his draft claim the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission’s order to reduce the FCR and feed price compensation mechanism by 16.3 per cent effective August 2013 is an “admission of guilt” of unjust enrichment, breach of trust and contract and negligence by the chicken supply management system and those groups named in lawsuit.
None of Black’s allegations have been proven in court.
Black says he intends to file his claim in Small Claims Court in his Manitoulin Island community and is suing the groups for $25,000 plus interest and court costs. “I’m only suing for myself and my wife.”
Black, 60, says he is filing it in Small Claims Court because “there’s sufficient red tape in Superior Court that I may die first” before the case is resolved. But Small Claims Court takes three months to one year to deal with cases, he notes.
Black has sent his draft statement of claim dated Jan. 30 by email to the organizations named in the lawsuit, and is giving those named 30 days to respond before he files in court sometime around the beginning of March. He hasn’t hired a lawyer and is representing himself.
Dungate says Black’s allegations lack substance.
The FCR, he says, is only one of the elements in determining the live prices farmers are paid.
“It isn’t the determiner of live price.”
Dungate also wonders why Black named Chicken Farmers of Canada in the lawsuit “if his issue is about pricing of chicken. We don’t do anything about pricing of chicken at Chicken Farmers of Canada. It’s a provincial issue.”
Black alleges farmers have been ripping off consumers but Dungate says that’s not true.
Live chicken prices across Canada have fallen about 20 cents a kilogram during the past year. “Has the price at retail come down 20 cents a kilogram?” Dungate asks.
Farmers don’t set the retail or wholesale price of chicken. Provincial boards and processors either negotiate or the provincial board sets the live price of chicken, he notes.
Dungate also says Small Claims Court isn’t the appropriate court for the case. “This is not just a dispute between two parties. He’s alleging a whole bunch of different things that you can’t address in a small claims court.”
Michael Edmonds, Chicken Farmers of Ontario communications and government relations director, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Black is president of the Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada. In a previous interview he declined to disclose the number of members in the group saying the membership has asked to keep it confidential.
Black has also been one of the people working to get Chicken Farmers of Ontario to raise the amount of chicken farmers can produce without owning quota to 2,000 birds annually from the current level of 300 birds. So far, Chicken Farmers has turned down the request. Previously, Black was unsuccessful in trying to convince the Ontario government to change its rules requiring all poultry meat sold in the province to be processed in a licensed abattoir.
For the past 10 years in Ontario, that FCR figure has been 2.0, and that means it takes two pounds of feed to put one pound of meat on a chicken. Improved genetics and feed formulations has drastically reduced the time required for day-old chicks to reach their market-ready weight and has also reduced the FCR, Black says in his draft statement of claim.
The current FCR in Ontario is 1.72, which means it takes 1.72 pounds of feed to put one pound of meat on a chicken. BF