Feds won’t back national pullet marketing agency

(Peggy Greb photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

The federal government has found the case for a national pullet marketing agency “not compelling” enough to grant the wish of a nationwide pullet producers’ group.

A spokesperson for federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz confirmed Wednesday that Ritz had reviewed the report and recommendations of the Farm Products Council of Canada (FPCC) on the application from Pullet Growers of Canada (PGC).

The government “has given the matter due consideration and, after reviewing the facts, has determined that the assessment of merit was not compelling,” thus it can’t support the request.

PGC said in a release Thursday it’s “disappointed” with the government’s decision, but chairman Andy DeWeerd pledged the organization will “regroup, examine our options and forge ahead.”

Pullet operations, considered an essential link in the egg supply chain, raise laying birds brought direct from hatcheries at a day old and provide egg production facilities with finished layer hens at about 19 weeks old. Canadian growers produced about 24.1 million pullet chicks per year on average between 2008 and 2012.

Many of Canada’s 550-plus pullet growers also have egg quota, but pullet growers as a group are not involved in decisions on egg production quota, national levies or cost-of-production formulae, all of which are handled through Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC).

Legislation in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia allows for quota systems which have “an influence” over pullet prices and numbers of birds produced, FPCC noted in its report. British Columbia has a permitting system governing pullet production and sales, while Newfoundland and Labrador requires its provincial egg board to license pullet growers. Other provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, don’t regulate pullet marketing or production at all.

Of all the provinces, only Quebec has a marketing agency dealing “exclusively” with the pullet sector, allowing for a quota and levy system much like supply management seen in the egg and poultry sectors.

PGC formed in 2006 as the National Pullet Growers Association and now has pullet grower members from all provinces except British Columbia, which is not a member province.

The group in 2010 agreed to work toward setting up a national pullet marketing agency under Canada’s supply-management system, which now regulates marketing and production of eggs, and of poultry other than pullets.

PGC first filed its full request to the FPCC in 2012 and has worked its way through the application process since then, the group said. [Related story]

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

“Achieving agency status would have stabilized the pullet industry and allowed us to be proactive — instead of reactive — in implementing national programs on cost of production, disease control, HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points) and housing standards, among many others.”

Furthermore, the group said, 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.”

“Normal business practice”

PGC, in its submissions to the FPCC, covered most of those points and noted consumers, as a result of a national agency, would see an increase of only one cent per dozen in the retail price of table eggs.

Submissions in favour of a national agency noted many pullet growers have had to subsidize their operations with table egg production or off-farm jobs, or have had to leave the business due to “low and irregular incomes,” the council said.

Most of the submissions opposed to a national pullet agency, the council added, didn’t specifically target a pullet agency, but involved “arguments against the supply management system in general.”

Most such submissions, the council said, referred to “the link between supply management and the increase in prices for consumers” and the raising of “entry barriers to the industry” which they said would overly benefit current producers.

The FPCC noted the EFC has supported the PGC’s application, saying a national pullet agency “would result in more successful supply-managed agriculture, in which pullet growers ought also to participate.”

Also, the FPCC noted, “with respect to the issue of egg farmers often not paying a realistic growing fee to pullet growers, EFC admitted that it was normal business practice to find the cheapest input.”

“We have come too far to just give up,” DeWeerd said in PGC’s release Thursday. “The status quo simply doesn’t work anymore and one way or another, PGC will lead Canadian pullet growers into a stable future.” — AGCanada.com Network


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