“This is a chance to get it clarified once and for all.”
– MI KE DUNGATE, CFC
Strained relationships between Canada’s chicken industry and its federal regulator moved closer to a legal airing this week.
The federal attorney general was scheduled to file court documents April 29 for a case involving a judicial review of the Farm Products Council of Canada.
Chicken Farmers of Canada previously filed its own documents with the Federal Court of Canada challenging the FPCC.
CFC wants the court to rule on how FPCC deals with CFC’s requests for chicken allocations and the way it handles complaints about those allocations.
Frequent complaints from industry players about chicken allocations, plus the agency’s own dissatisfaction with the procedure, culminated last year in the request for a judicial review.
“This is a chance to get it clarified once and for all,” said Mike Dungate, CFC general manager.
It is the first time the chicken board has taken the federal regulator to court over the process for approving quota allocations.
“There’s a certain precedent,” said Dungate.
The case stems from FPCC’s handling of CFC’s allocation request for the A-93 production period from August 16, 2009 to October 10, 2009. CFC establishes allocations for chicken production in each province every eight weeks.
CFC set the A-93 allocation on May 13 and sent it to FPCC for approval, as required by law. The Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodser vices As sociat ion complained to the regulator that the allocation was too high.
On July 10, FPCC ruled against the allocation and returned it to CFC for review.
CFC reconsidered the allocation, decided market indicators supported it and sent it back unchanged to FPCC July 29.
FPCC finally approved the A-93 allocation August 13, three days before the production period was set to start.
In the meantime, the processors’ group had asked FPCC to hold a public hearing on the whole allocation process. CFC requested one, too. The council refused.
CFC then applied for the judicial review.
Dungate said the case will deal with two issues: the procedure for handling allocation requests and the decision not to hold a public hearing.
The case will also encompass industry groups’ complaints about allocations for three previous production periods.
Dungate said CFC is not challenging FPCC’s authority to rule on allocations or complaints about them.
But the agency is saying FPCC failed to follow due process in making its decision about A-93 and the call for a public hearing, he said.
“We are arguing that there wasn’t a fair procedure.”
Dungate said CFC needs allocation rulings from FPCC within 30 days of submitting requests. In the case of A-93 it took more than 50 days. This put farmers in a difficult position having to place birds in barns without knowing what their allocations for the upcoming period would be, he said.
Six provinces, including Manitoba, have filed court documents supporting CFC’s case. The others are British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
A court date for a hearing will be set after the federal documents are filed. [email protected]