Saturday, February 14, 2015

Distractions or Consultations by CFO?

Am I too cynical, jaded, and suspicious?

Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") and their Chicken Industry Advisory Committee, prodded by Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission are holding consultation meetings from chicken farmers and all other interested parties, seeking input, feedback, and advice on how to best position the chicken industry for growth in a controlled market (ie. Supply Management).

Team Ontario (a disguise worn by CFO, see says:
The Ontario chicken industry is well positioned to grow over the next few years as a result of both market fundamentals as well as the resolution of a national differential growth solution which will bring additional production to Ontario. This growth in the Ontario chicken industry will not only stimulate broad economic benefits for the province, it will positively contribute to the Government of Ontario’s stated objective of creating an additional 120,000 new jobs in the food and agricultural sector by 2020.
Growth in both established and emerging chicken markets presents a real opportunity for the industry to review existing mechanisms of allocating growth, assess the current system and provide the basis for exploring new ways to administer growth to both producers and processors.
The Consultation Process: 
CFO, Association of Chicken Processors and Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission are jointly committed to working with and encouraging participation by the broadest possible range of relevant stakeholders who have an interest in or who may be affected by decisions resulting from the consultation exercise.
Some Northern Ontario chicken farmers noted that there were no consultations meetings in Northern Ontario.  It would seem that CFO feels there is no need to consult everybody, as Northern Ontario only represents more than 50% of Ontario's land mass, and 10% of its population.  Apparently, we still don't qualify as part of Ontario.  Northern Ontario has been disenfranchised for decades.

Max Burt and 7 other chicken farmers weren't satisfied with that approach, so they loaded up their vehicles and headed South to the meeting in Guelph.  In that Guelph meeting, there were 3 chicken farmers from the Guelph area, and 8 from Northern Ontario.  Max and his gang of Northern chicken farmers made it very plain about their dissatisfaction with the ignoring of half the Province.

CBC News notes that on Jan. 27, 2015, twenty farmers and food organizations in Northern Ontario sent a letter to OFPMC and CFO, requesting meetings in Northern Ontario.

Shortly after that, a 17th consultation meeting was scheduled for Northern Ontario.

On Feb. 7th, Nourishing Ontario's website posted about the last minute addition of the Northern Ontario meetings on Feb. 10th, grace of Sustain Ontario's Flocking Option Campaign.

A tip of the hat to Max and his merry band of Northern Ontario chicken farmers for protecting our interests.

The live meeting was held in Gore Bay with 5 participants with Brian Boyle (an ex-OMAFRA facilitator) and Murray Opsteen (a CFO Board Member), and Brad Stephenson (Technical Support).  In addition, there were Internet-based satellite conferences tied in from Bruce Mines (6 more people), Dryden (10), Geraldton (6), Rainey River (10), Temiskaming (?), Thunder Bay (10), and Verner-Sudbury (9), for a grand total of more than 55 participants.

Since University of Guelph is the heart of all things agriculture in Ontario (University of Guelph, OMAFRA's offices, research stations, etc.) you'd think they could collect more than 3 participants.  Yet in Northern Ontario, we collected more than 55 participants, 37 times more than the Guelph meeting.

It seems everybody was impressed (or should I say shocked) at the interest shown by Northern Ontario.

Was this just another propaganda facade to placate the masses, with the input guaranteed to be ignored?  Did they really want to hear what non-quota farmers (ie. small flock chicken farmers and others) thought?

Only time will tell.  While the comments were recorded, they may be doomed to gathering dust in some filing cabinet for the next century.  There is some slim possibility that they may be forwarded to the true decision makers, and used to shape Ontario's new policies.  At this point, it's hard to know for sure.  We will patiently wait and watch.

The consumption of chicken in Ontario is growing significantly, more than 4% in just the last year.  How is it best to respond to that market growth and the fair allocation of supply and demand amongst all the players?

Just because there are more that 10 times the number of small flock farmers in Ontario (as compared to the quota-bearing chicken factory operators), doesn't mean that Small Flockers will get their fair share.

Today, Small Flockers can only grow 300 birds per year, just enough to supply the annual chicken consumption for 9 people.  Due to the bureaucracy and red tape, and the uneconomic constraints imposed on Small Flockers, most Small Flockers grow 57 birds per year or less; just enough to feed their immediate family.

Some of the points made by Northern Ontario participants:
  • Supply Management is ineffective.
  • Major changes in the quota system and small flocker exemptions are needed; or removal of the quota system altogether.
  • We need safe, locally produced, affordable chicken that responds to the local needs and customers
  • Chicken factories are the source of the majority of disease outbreaks and resistant bacteria due to dysfunctional farming practices
  • First Nations need an opportunity to participate
  • Affordable chicken is a major issue, and getting worse every day
  • Abattoirs that are reasonably proximate to chicken farmers are needed.  Portable abattoirs are one possible solution.
At the meeting, a handout listed 6 Objectives for allocating growth was circulated:
  1. Evolve the allocation systems of both farmers and processors to improve the flexibility and responsiveness in capitalizing on growth opportunities in the chicken marketplace.
  2. Create value by serving the needs of growing and emerging markets.
  3. Encourage innovation, new business-building ideas.
  4. Serve the needs of existing markets, taking into consideration their size, importance, and historical investment.
  5. Develop a system that is predictable and stable that aligns the interests of key stakeholders in the chicken industry
  6. Encourage quality, efficiency, and value creation.
I note that CFO tries to focus attention on dividing the spoils of future growth of Ontario's chicken market.  Is this the equivalent of distracting people to focus on the selection of new upholstery fabrics for the deck chairs on the Titanic, rather than watching out for iceburgs?  What is the root issue that CFO wants to avoid?

We await the tallying and reporting on the input received from the grass roots participants.

1 comment:

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