Thursday, May 22, 2014

Decision Time

The Tribunal has made its decision on our Appeal.  Now it is time for Small Flockers and their friends to make our decision.

The Tribunal's decision on CFO's Motion to Dismiss our appeal is available here: Tribunal's Decision.

Small Flockers need to decide if we abandon our fight for freedom and affordable food, or continue our fight for truth, justice, and pragmatic solutions.

I just sent an email to all members of Small Flockers, and a few key agriculture media contacts.  That emailed letter is reproduced here.

As requested in this letter, if you have any feedback, I'd like to receive it too. Call, email, or post your comments below, whether pro or con.

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Begin Email Letter

To:    Members of Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada
c.c.   Agriculture Media

As a member, supporter, or follower of Small Flocker Poultry Farmers of Canada, you need to know that we are at an important decision point for Small Flockers, and I seek your advice.

Attached, you will find the Tribunal's decision on my appeal, where I was acting as proxy for all other Small Flockers in Ontario, and the rest of Canada.

The Appeals Tribunal has rejected all of our issues raised, except for one:  the 300 birds/yr grow limit imposed on Small Flockers by CFO (Chicken Farmers of Ontario), and our request to have the limit raised to 2,000 birds per year, in line with most other Provinces.

The Tribunal has invited me to file an amended Notice of Appeal on this one issue.  I need to decide if I should give up now, or file the abridged appeal.

In my mind, the #1 issue was, and remains, whether CFO  is a power unto themselves.  CFO seems to feel they can do as they please with the government powers delegated & vested in them, to feather their own nest at the expense of everybody else in Ontario.  If we solve this one issue about CFO's role, most or all other issues in chicken supply management will automatically (more or less) solve themselves.  This is why safe, affordable food for all Ontario families is the second most important issue that we hoped to address in this appeal.

Today, Health Canada reports that 7.6% of Canadian families can't afford the food they need to feed themselves.  In our have-not Province of Ontario, food insecurity is 11% worse than the Canadian average.  Will this be an election issue?  Is there any hope of solving or improving this issue if we abandon our appeal at this point in time?

If I file the amended appeal, the Tribunal may have to rule on that central core issue (ie. Does CFO have a duty to do what is in the best interest of the public?), but the Tribunal could also refuse again to address that important issue, deciding the 300 vs. 2,000 bird limit question based on other facts.  I believe we can show on the balance of probabilities that strengthening and expanding small flockers would be in the public's best interest, and would be more fair to small flockers.  CFO has again stated that the 300 bird limit was not set, and has no need to be set at a level that is commercially viable (ie. it is not necessary that a small flocker has a reasonable expectation of making a profit).

I expect that if I go forward, most or all of the cost, time, and effort will likely have to come from me personally.  For that reason, I seek your advice, but reserve the final decision to me alone.  In other words, I reserve the right to accept or reject the advice of the majority of Small Flock members, and each individual.  However, I would greatly appreciate receiving your advice, and more important yet, the REASONS behind your advice.

There is no guarantee that we will win or achieve anything if I do all the work of re-filing a new, revised version of an appeal, and go back to the Tribunal again.

I suggest that CFO would be very glad to sweep all of this under the carpet.  By making this appeal a tough and drawn out process, CFO likely hopes to wear us down, so that all sane people give up before getting anywhere close to the finish line.  In that way, CFO wins by default, and the status quo continues in CFO's advantage.  There is no guarantee that CFO won't file another Motion to Dismiss to my revised Notice of Appeal.

Personally, all or most of my issues have been swept aside; gone, deemed outside of the chosen jurisdiction of Tribunal by this decision.

On the other hand, it is usual for Courts and Tribunals to decide or comment on only the minimum number of issues necessary to make the decision at hand.  The Tribunal was asked to dismiss or contain the issues in the appeal.  That is the decision that they have made.

If we go forward by filing the amended Notice of Appeal, the Tribunal may have to decide on some of these other collateral issues too.  That would be the best possible outcome, where some or all of these other important issues get decided by the Tribunal as collateral benefits that come with the Tribunal's future decision about the 300 vs. 2000 bird limit.  Perhaps we can enter by the back door after having been refused entrance by the front door.

The Tribunal suggest I should ask for a Public Inquiry on all of the issues raised. What's the chances of getting the Fed or Prov. government to hold a public inquiry?  What a joke.  Snowball's chance in Hell, in my opinion.  Perhaps I am wrong on this, but I am not prepared to spend 1 second of effort on that impossible dream.

As for me personally, my barn can only grow 100 meat birds at a time.  At a max. of 6 grow sessions per year (think of the energy bill in -40 deg. C weather), I can do a max of 600 birds per year if I don't build a new barn.  If I restrict my growing to those that I can do economically, I can grow 4 sessions per year @ 100 birds per session= 400 birds per year.  There isn't much difference between 300 (current CFO limit by Ontario Regulation) vs 400 birds per year limit (the physical restraint of my barn).  I can't justify all the effort to fight this David Vs. Goliath battle for 100 more chickens per year that I would grow personally.  CFO's data says that 50% of small flockers have 60 birds or less at present.  It would appear that most Small Flockers in Ontario are similar to me at present.

There is the possibility that after 10 or 20 years with the 2,000 bird limit, more and more Small Flockers will start growing more chicken because it has become economically feasible to do so.  That is the hope, but mostly speculation whether it would actually occur.  Nobody knows for sure.

The current 300 birds/yr. limit allows one farmer to produce enough chicken to feed 5.5 families for a year.

Alternatively, there are about 100 families in my small village.  If I focus on feeding them, that is about 250 people.  Assuming 38 kg of chicken consumed per person per year, that is a total of 9,500 kg per year of chicken required.  At 2 kg per eviscerated chicken, that is 4,750 birds per year.  With a 2,000 bird limit, I would be able to feed about 42% of my remote village for their annual chicken consumption.  That would seem to be reasonable in my particular case.  Perhaps there are many Small Flockers who have a similar duty or opportunity so as to achieve safe, nutritious, locally produced chicken for their community.  Perhaps this is sufficient reason to continue the fight.

On the other hand, this revised grow limit [of] 2,000 birds per year might allow for the creation of mid-sized regional chicken producers, possibly adding a middle tier into the current 2 tier system (ie. currently just quota farmers and small flock farmers).

I'd be doing all the work for a very few individuals who would benefit from being able to become a regional chicken producer.  In the future, will these regional producers align themselves with the small flockers and the consumers, or will they choose to align themselves with the big boys (ie. the millionaire quota chicken farmers and producers) so that they get free crumbs from the master's table?  I am not highly motivated to help splinter and add to the opposition forces (ie. possibly similar to chopping a star fish in half so as to get rid of them, but you end up with twice as many star fishes, as each piece re-grows into a whole star fish). On the positive side, perhaps this new middle tier of chicken producers will help apprentice & ease in new chicken farmers to our industry, rather than the current trans-Atlantic jump that is required from small flock (easy for everybody to do) to full minimum quota size (ie. a multi-million dollar operation).  Therefore a 3-tier system might be good for Ontario in the long run.

If I stop now, I will have failed in my purpose, as Jim Rohnman said yesterday in his Blog 

Perhaps I have poisoned the well, and it is better if I toss the ball into the air, yell "Free Throw", and hope somebody else jumps up, grabs the ball, and runs with it.

I don't like the thought of being a quitter, nor of being a failure, nor admitting to have wasted the huge effort I expended over the last 3 years on these issues.  However, it would be an even greater disaster to ignore this setback, then blunder on to an even greater waste of time and effort, or the further polarization and entrenchment between the CFO and Small Flocker factions.

If I go forward, I have little to no personal skin in the game.  It will be mainly "for the good of all Ontario" and the new regional chicken producers who would gain from my efforts if I choose to proceed.  Perhaps in the long term there might be some advantages to what we have done so far; it's hard to know.

It's a tough decision.  That's why I need your advice.  Please call or email me with your thoughts; pro or con.

Yours truly,


Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada
c/o 576 Firehall Rd. P.O. Box 101
Providence Bay ON   P0P 1T0
Phone (705)-377-4039

Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to communicate, discuss, and advocate for the civil rights and important role that small flock poultry farmers can play (and should play) in Canadian Society.

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End Email Letter

If you have any feedback, I'd like to receive it too. Call, email, or post your comments below, whether pro or con.

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