by SUSAN MANN
Turkey Farmers of Ontario will allow organic producers to raise turkeys outdoors.
The Organic Council of Ontario used a postcard campaign this fall to enlist Ontario Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky’s help in changing a May 2008 Turkey Farmers policy requiring all turkeys to be raised indoors.
Turkey Farmers had introduced the policy to mitigate the risk of Avian Influenza from wild birds. It didn’t apply to farmers with flocks under 50 turkeys.
The Council protested the policy because it conflicted with requirements for organic certification.
The amended policy requires conventional turkey producers to raise birds indoors but exempts organic producers from this requirement.
The Council sent the new policy to the federal Standards Interpretation Committee of the Canada Organic office to ensure it complies with the Canadian Organic Standard. Jodi Koberinski, Council executive director, doesn’t know when the office will complete the review.
The Council’s board agreed organic farmers could live with Turkey Farmers’ changes. But “it’s not for us to say what meets the Standard,” Koberinski says.
Ingrid DeVisser, chair of Turkey Farmers board, says in the end “it came down to politics, really.”
The minister told Turkey Farmers it had the right to make policy. “But she asked us to look at whether we can make accommodations to the policy,” DeVisser explains.
Farmers must be certified organic growers and have proof of certification to be exempted, DeVisser says. Turkeys’ food and water must be either in a building or outside in covered range feeders.
One week before going to market, organic growers must have a random sample of their birds, normally 20, blood-tested for Avian Influenza. After the blood test, the birds must be kept under a solid roof with either mesh or solid sides.
“For us it has always been about disease prevention and mitigating risks,” DeVisser notes. BF