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 Marketing 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.”