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Ontario Tribunal Reinstates Single Desk — Sort Of

“Each party’s

presentation was based on its own particular goals rather than an effective structure for the industry.”

– FRANCIS HANDY

An appeal tribunal has overturned an order ending Ontario Pork’s mandatory single desk for hog marketing – but is also telling farmers they don’t have to use it.

The ruling Feb. 16 by the province’s Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal reinstates sections of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Regulations that were revoked in October 2008 by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

The tribunal’s decision restores the single desk, but exempts all Ontario hog producers from it for a minimum of 18 months. Those who want to market through the single desk will then have to apply to waive the exemption.

Hog farmers consenting to the waiver must commit to marketing their production through Ontario Pork for a minimum period of 18 months.

The 2008 ruling by the Ontario Farm Products Market ing Commission, which directed Ontario Pork to convert itself from a mandatory single-desk model to an optional marketing agency for Ontario hog farmers, was appealed by some farmers and other industry players.

Writing for the tribunal, vice-chair Francis Handy said the members dislike the negative option, but consider it the most practical approach.

The tribunal said this option would allow Ontario Pork to complete its consultations, strategic planning and governance reviews toward a new structure “while allowing those who wish to operate outside of the mandatory marketing regime to do so, but without making permanent changes that may be unwise to implement without further review and consideration by those most affected.”

In the next 18 months, Ontario Pork will be required to consult and to provide a plebiscite or similar mechanism to ensure its recommendations have support in the industry, the tribunal ordered.

The appeal tribunal also overturned the commission’s decision on fee collection, restoring Ontario Pork’s authority to collect fees on all classes of domestic swine produced in Ontario, not just slaughter hogs.

In a statement, Ontario Pork said it will work towards completing the tribunal’s orders.

“This decision gives us the direction we needed,” said Wilma Jeffray, chair of Ontario Pork. “A decision of this magnitude with so many stakeholders could not have been easy.”

Jeffray said the tribunal’s process was fair and balanced. “Ontario Pork will be working with producers, the commission and industry stakeholders as we lead this change. Much of the foundational work for this process has been considered already,” she said.

Handy, a mediator and arbitrator by profession, noted in the tribunal’s ruling that “adversarial-style hearings are a poor way to make policy decisions.”

“There was not a comprehensive review of data about the industry as a whole from anyone; each party’s presentation was based on its own particular goals rather than an effective structure for the industry. Many who will be affected by this decision did or could not participate and were not sought out for their views,” he said.

Hardy said the hearing saw very little in the way of expert testimony, and “most of what the tribunal heard was argument rather than evidence, even during the evidentiary phase of the hearing.”

He said there appears to be a radical split between philosophies, perspectives and prognoses in the province’s hog industry. However, “the entity now best suited and making the most comprehensive effort to develop a consensus is Ontario Pork.”

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About the author

Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Writer and editor. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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