Ontario’s hog producers are hanging in limbo on when or whether the pork board will lose its single-desk marketing powers April 1.
Things might get clearer after a pre-hearing conference by the Ontar io Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs tribunal March 9.
One of the key issues is whether all of the changes at Ontario Pork are on hold, pending the outcome of tribunal hearings into three appeals that have been filed against the directives from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.
Curtiss Littlejohn, chairman of Ontario Pork, said the board’s position is that the directives are on hold. He and vice-chair Wilma Jaffrey, have pulled out of the advisory committee.
Littlejohn said that if the tribunal rules after March 9 that the directives ought to be implemented, the pork board remains on track to implement them by the April 1 deadline.
The pre-conference hearing will address a number of issues, trying to clarify precisely what’s being appealed, to determine whether the three appeals can be merged and deciding whether the tribunal will entertain the appeals and, if so, when public hearings will begin.
The chicken industry underwent a similar appeal tribunal challenge to commission directives revamping its marketing and pricing systems, and that dragged on for almost a year.
The advisory committee continues to meet with all members minus Littlejohn and Jaffrey. It’s chaired by Ken Knox, a former deputy minister of Ontario agriculture.
Paul Bootsma, chairman of the pork committee for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, has been added to the advisory committee, perhaps in response to complaints that small-scale producers lack sufficient representation through the pork board.
The three appeals have been filed by Rein Minnema, by the Huron County Pork Producers Association, and by Toni and Rita Felder.
The key change in the commission directives gives hog farmers and any hog buyers freedom to strike whatever deal they want without any involvement from the marketing board.
Under existing rules, also dictated by the commission, the pork board must allow producers and packers to strike contract deals, but the pork board has insisted on knowing what’s in those contracts, including prices.