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Pullet producers hope to join supply management

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The last sector of Canada’s chicken and turkey industry not currently under a supply management system has submitted an application to join the flock.

“It’s the last frontier,” said Andy DeWeerd, chairman of the Pullet Growers of Canada. Nearly two years in the making, the application was submitted to the Farm Products Council of Canada on July 17 to approve the request to become a federal supply-managed marketing board. “The biggest reason is to receive a fair return on our pullets that we’re growing. Without a supply management system, we’re unable to cover our cost of production and unlike other commodities, our customers are set. We’re all locked into a market,” said DeWeerd.

If the application is approved, pullet growers will be able to set prices and establish quotas, which is how the other sectors of the chicken, egg and dairy industries work currently.

Canada’s 550 pullet producers specialize in raising female chicks from hatchling eggs to be sold as replacement laying hens for the table egg industry.

“We need a unified voice going forward to talk about diseases and one voice to unite us all,” said DeWeerd, adding that in the event of animal health issues, pullet producers need an advocate to ensure there are compensation programs for any culls necessary to control an outbreak of avian influenza, as an example. “We also have animal welfare that we’re working on too, working with researchers to develop the new code for animal care,” he said.

The Farm Products Council of Canada has formed a committee to go over the application, and will meet as a board this month to determine what happens next.

“We don’t know yet if we need to hold hearings across the country. Farm Products Council of Canada will let us know what we have to do,” DeWeerd said. If approved, some sort of checkoff fee will be implemented to fund the marketing board. Currently, the Pullet Growers of Canada is voluntarily funded, and the price tag involved in research to submit the application has been steep. Producers have contributed between $180,000 and $200,000 to make their supply management marketing board a reality. If the pullet producers get a green light, they’ll be the first supply-managed national board formed since 1986, when the Canadian Broiler Hatching Egg Marketing Board was created.

DeWeerd says a website for the Pullet Producers of Canada will be launched in the next month or so.

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