Pullet farmers seek answers after marketing agency denied

The government turned their application down, but hasn’t given a reason

Hens in a cage

Canadian pullet producers are trying to find out why their application for a national marketing board was denied by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“We are awaiting the official written response from the minister’s office in that regard and in the meantime we are considering our options,” said Andy DeWeerd, chairman of the Pullet Growers of Canada. “We have come too far to just give up. Now is the time to regroup, examine our options and forge ahead. The status quo simply doesn’t work anymore and one way or another, PGC will lead Canadian pullet growers into a stable future.”

There are 550 pullet producers across Canada.

In an email, Agriculture Canada’s media section said, “After reviewing the Farm Products Council of Canada report and recommendation and giving it due consideration, the government determined that the assessment of merit was not compelling.”

The email said the government still supports supply management for dairy and the rest of the poultry sector. It insisted pullet farmers, who supply young hens for farms that produce eggs for grocery stores and food processors, would continue to prosper.

However, DeWeerd says his members sought marketing board status to stabilize the sector and be able to afford the growing cost of government regulations and food safety standards.

The report posted on the council’s website summarizes its public hearings on the pullet growers’ application, but doesn’t contain any recommendations. It notes there was far more support than opposition to a pullet board.

The main criticisms were that international trade would be constrained and consumer prices would rise. The report doesn’t dispute the pullet growers’ contention that a marketing board could lead to a one- to two-cent-a-dozen increase in the price of eggs.

Egg Farmers of Canada, whose members are the main customers of pullet growers, supported the proposed board.

“This has been a long and involved process,” DeWeerd said. “This is the right time for PGC to come under supply management and would have been a positive change for Canadian pullet growers.”

The growers spent more than four years going step by step through the legal process of applying for marketing board status, which would give them some control over production and prices. Pullets are the day-old chicks raised to 19 weeks that become layer hens. They are currently the only part of the poultry system that is not in supply management.

A successful application would have given PGC the required legal powers to represent and make decisions on behalf of member provincial pullet grower organizations on issues related to cost of production, disease control and animal welfare, among many other issues facing the industry. Stable pricing under supply management would have allowed pullet growers to reinvest in their farms and address social and environmental responsibilities to the standards expected by Canadians with consistent national programs, the association said.

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