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by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Pork producers in three Ontario districts are sending new faces to their provincial commodity board and at least one of the new directors feels it was because of the current controversy around pork marketing.
Doug Ahrens, Perth County Pork Producers president defeated Phil Anwender, chair of Ontario Pork’s safety net committee, in an election in Perth County last week.
Ahrens attributed the change to “this issue with (Ontario) Farm Products (Marketing Commission). I have never seen an issue in the 32 years that I have farmed that has divided farmers so badly.”
He said the industry is divided into two camps – one supporting dual marketing immediately and the other wanting to slow changes to the industry - with each group working to get representation on the commodity board.
Ahrens said the Commission’s decision to strip the board of its marketing powers sparked producers’ concerns. A recent letter from the Commission calling for the Ontario Farm Products Appeals Tribunal to dismiss three related appeals exacerbated the issue. “It was just like backing a gasoline truck up and pouring fuel on.”
Ahrens said although there is widespread understanding that the board’s single desk marketing model needs change, that doesn’t mean the board needs to lose mandatory marketing powers. “We want the option kept. Because I think we have proven we can evolve with that.”
Ahrens expressed surprise that he had displaced Anwender and noted the former director had done a lot of good work.
For his part, Anwender said he felt “extremely disappointed.”
“I put my heart and soul into a responsibility and took ownership in particular of safety net issues,” he said. “I believe that I have made a difference in matters related to the business of pork production.”
He attributed his loss to growing concern about the way the Commission has handled Ontario Pork’s transition and noted that he was in favour of dual marketing “and therefore the FPMC decision.”
A month ago, Perth County pork producer councillors voted not to appeal the commission’s decision by a substantial number, he said.
Now, the tide seems to be turning. Councillors “don’t like the tone from FPMC that they have seen at recent meetings and read in the correspondence that has been made public.”
A day later, producers in Huron County, District 3, replaced Teresa Van Raay with Amy Cronin.
Huron Pork Producers launched one of three appeals against the Ontario Farm Product Marketing Commission’s decision to strip the pork board of its powers. (The other two are from individual producers in Lambton County.) But Cronin doesn’t think the change of guard had to do with the marketing issue.
The new director said she’ll definitely take Huron’s concerns to the board level but attributed the change in representation to producers’ desire for “strong representation right now, people who they feel can ensure there’s a strong board going into the future that represents all of the pork producers in Ontario.”
“We need to concentrate on the future of the industry and keep a focus on (the future of) the Maple Leaf plant.”
Van Raay, who had been a director for four years, said she was surprised at the outcome but offered no other comment.
Jasper Vanderbas, long-term director for District 5, Oxford County, confirmed Greg Haskett, president of the county’s association, had replace him as the district’s new director. Vanderbas had no comment on the vote. Haskett could not be reached on deadline.
The new directors take their seats after the Ontario Pork annual meeting at the end of March. BF
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