Ontario Pork splits marketing, farmer service wings

Ontario’s hog agency says it’s completed its transition to an open-market organization just on the provincial ag minister’s deadline for it to do so.

Ontario Pork on Monday said it officially split its operations into two separate divisions, Ontario Pork Universal Services and Ontario Pork Marketing Division, by Ag Minister Carol Mitchell’s Saturday (Dec. 4) deadline.

“Hog producers are now free to choose to sell their hogs directly to buyers or through an intermediary such as the Ontario Pork Marketing Division,” the organization said in a release.

“We had a detailed schedule for completion and have been working diligently to make it happen,” Ontario Pork chair Wilma Jeffray said in the release.

“Since June, our producers have been sent regular communications informing them of what was taking place and what they should be considering to get their businesses ready for this day.

“Due to the work we have been doing internally over the last several months, we are confident producers will make informed decisions as they begin the transition,” said Jeffray, a producer from southern Ontario’s Grey/Bruce County region.

Mitchell in March undertook a ministerial review of a February ruling by the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, which reinstated sections of the provincial Farm Products Marketing Regulations revoked in October 2008 by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission (OFPMC).

The OFPMC’s 2008 ruling had directed Ontario Pork to convert itself from a mandatory single-desk model to an optional marketing agency for Ontario hog farmers, and to put a plan in place by March 2009 to do so.

But the commission’s order was stayed by the tribunal after some farmers and other industry players appealed it.

The appeal tribunal’s February decision restored Ontario Pork’s single desk, but also called to exempt all Ontario hog producers from it for at least 18 months, giving the pork board time to complete its consultations and governance reviews toward a new marketing structure.

“Appropriate”

Mitchell, invoking her authority to change or erase some or all of a ruling by her own ministry’s appeal tribunal, in May laid out her own plan to have a dual-marketing system for hogs in the province by December.

As per her review, the province’s 2,300 producers will be able to choose to sell their hogs directly to buyers — or through an intermediary, such as Ontario Pork, which would still offer marketing services to producers and processors.

Such a split in Ontario Pork’s services, Mitchell said at the time, “would also have to include separating any fees the board may receive for its regulatory functions from its marketing functions, in order to ensure that the board is not receiving an unfair competitive advantage over others who may want to offer marketing services.”

The pork board, she added, will “no longer have the authority to approve contracts. Rather, the board will only have the authority to review contracts and provide comments when a party to the agreement requests its assistance.”

But Mitchell also confirmed the appeal tribunal’s position that Ontario Pork should have the authority to collect fees on all classes of hogs.

“If the board is going to retain some of its regulatory functions, it will… require a source of revenue to do so. Therefore, it makes sense that the board be able to impose a reasonable fee to cover its operating expenses.”

To get an open market system in place, Mitchell wrote at the time, “I believe that all necessary changes should be in place by no later (than) Dec. 4,” to give affected hog farmers time to deal with their fieldwork.

Ontario Pork’s fiscal year also ends at about this time, she then noted, which beats having to make major changes in the hog marketing system halfway through the year.

Ontario Pork said Monday it’s been working closely with the OFPMC and the Hog Industry Advisory Committee to ensure “appropriate regulations” are in place for the new marketing model.

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