Ontario’s provincial Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal will hold hearings next month setting the agenda for a full round of appeals on how hogs are marketed in the province.
The tribunal on Tuesday named its chair and vice-chairs, Kirk Walstedt, Frank Handy and Paula Lombardi respectively, as the panel that will hear appeals of an Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission order last October. The commission directed Ontario Pork to convert itself from a mandatory single-desk model to an optional marketing agency for the province’s hog farmers.
The appeal tribunal in March slapped a continuing stay on the commission’s order until its hearings on the matter could be held.
The tribunal emphasized in its interim decision Tuesday that it is not bound to follow the commission’s procedures in how it conducts this appeal, and instead plans a de novo hearing.
By de novo (Latin for “starting anew”), the appeal tribunal means it will allow those granted standing at its hearing to submit and prove material from the hearing that was presented before the commission; to update and submit revised material; or to submit new material as required.
“Parties are encouraged to consolidate their submissions and evidence where their particular interests are congruent with those of others,” the tribunal said Tuesday.
However, it said, the list of proposed issues for the appeal process “must arise from the decision of the commission that has been appealed.”
Parties to the appeal hearings Aug. 12 are required to submit their lists of proposed issues to the tribunal by Aug. 5.
The Aug. 12 hearings, at a place and time to be decided between now and then, are meant to set the specific schedule, agenda (such as the order of presentations) and issues for discussion at a full appeals hearing, which would follow at a later date.
The commission’s order to Ontario Pork in October had initially required that the bulk of the marketing agency’s overhaul would come into effect “in or about” April 2009. Ontario Pork would have had to develop an plan to move from a mandatory marketing organization to one offering producers “choices in marketing methods.”
When or if that move ultimately happens, Ontario Pork would still have authority to “represent, and collect license fees from, producers of all classes of pigs, including weaners and breeding stock” and to address pork industry issues on hog farmers’ behalf, the commission had said.
But in a deregulated scenario as the commission proposed, Ontario Pork would only be able to review and approve direct-supply contracts for hogs if either a buyer or a seller asks, and would be able to market pigs for producers on a fee-for-service basis.
According to the ag newspaper Ontario Farmer, those who’ve been granted standing for the Aug. 12 hearing include the commission; Ontario Pork itself; Conestoga Meat Packers and its owner, the Progressive Pork Producers Co-op; the Open Marketing Group, represented by lawyer Geoff Spurr; Maple Leaf Foods; Quality Packers; Fields Farms Ltd.; Zantingh Direct Inc.; the District 10, 11 and 12 Pork Producers; southwestern Ontario hog producer Rein Minnema, who has support from former pork board director Jason Vanderbas; and a group of three “large-volume” producers, Synergy Swine, RFW Farms and Paragon Farms.
Another ag newspaper, Better Farming, on Wednesday quoted Conestoga chairman Bob Hunsberger as saying the company was disappointed with the tribunal’s plans, and “we believe the commission conducted its hearing appropriately and everybody had an opportunity to participate.”
Now, Hunsberger told Better Farming, “we have a small minority of producers who have decided everybody has to go to their church. It will cost the industry several million dollars when the industry can’t afford it.”
However, Elbert Van Donkersgoed, the agent and spokesperson for Minnema, who had called for the de novo appeal hearing, told Better Farming the appeal tribunal’s approach “is exactly as we thought it should be.”