Open marketing for hogs back in Ontario

By early December, Ontario's hog producers will have the opportunity to choose their own marketing methods.

Last week, the province's minister of agriculture, foods and rural affairs, Carol Mitchell, ruled hog producers should be able to sell pigs directly to buyers, or work through an organization such as the Ontario Pork Producers Marketing Board.

Mitchell's decision follows her review of a Farm Products Appeal Tribunal ruling last February. That ruling had overturned a 2008 Farm Products Marketing Commission decision to relieve Ontario Pork of its traditional single-desk selling powers.

But the minister thought the tribunal's interpretation might be "too narrow." She has authority to ultimately accept, reject or amend the tribunal's ruling, and chose to exercise her powers.

In announcing her decision, Mitchell says this latest move will "help to create stability in Ontario's hog industry by resolving an outstanding issue that has been ongoing for more than 10 years now."

Says Mitchell: "This decision is about providing Ontario's hard-working farmers with a clear, predictable, and stable means to market their hogs. By creating an environment in which farmers can succeed, we are creating opportunities and building a strong future for Ontario's agri-food industry."

In announcing her review in March, Mitchell said she was looking for evidence about what marketing system -- either single desk or open marketing -- would best protect the interests of Ontario's pork industry.

She also wanted an explanation as to why Ontario should use either system. As a result, she received 40 submissions on the topic, and then made her ruling.  

Mitchell says she is leaving it up to the board to determine the appropriate method of collecting its fees from producers. However, she stressed that she expected the board to consult with all hog stakeholders, including the commission, on its proposed method of collecting the fee before implementation.

As well, she stresses her ruling did not mean she had lost faith in the tribunal system.

"My decision should not be taken to mean that I do not have confidence in the tribunal," she said. "Indeed, I believe that the tribunal serves an important function within Ontario's regulated markets. However, and as the tribunal readily pointed out in its decision, the adversarial process is not necessarily well-suited for resolving complex policy-laden questions."