Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Black writes to chicken farmers

Glenn Black, the outspoken critic of the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, has posted an open letter to quota holders on his blog, , inviting them into a discussion about the chicken industry.

Black often refers to the #ChickenMafia in his blogs and generally pokes and prods the marketing board and allied service providers, such as feed companies and processors.

But he says in his open letter that he has nothing against the quota-holding chicken farmers and their supply management system, only the way it’s operating today.

He said the current situation is not what was intended when the supply-management system was established on a national platform in the mid-1970s because it has pushed prices too high.

He said it’s wrong that so many Canadians cannot afford chicken which is more than twice as expensive in Canada as in the U.S. There are tariffs of more than 250 per cent which make it possible for Canadians to charge more than Americans.

He is lobbying on behalf of all small flock owners to have the chicken board change its regulations to increase the number of birds that can be raised without quota from 300 to 2,000 per year.

There are other provinces who allow that many and Saskatchewan allows 3,000 per year.

Black is on Manitoulin Island where others have complained before that it’s not right that local people cannot buy locally-raised chickens in their supermarkets and restaurants.

The farmers in Northern Ontario cannot afford to buy quota, they have argued, and even if they could, they would have to ship their birds to processing plants in Southern Ontario and then wait for them to be delivered back to their stores and restaurants.

A Manitoulin-island farmer who runs a meat-packing plant tried before to persuade the chicken board to grant quota to he and some other Island farmers so they could serve the local market, but the board refused.

The board is also facing criticism because people who want kosher or Hong Kong dressed birds cannot find any that have been grown by farmers in Ontario, or processed at a poultry plant in Ontario.

There are both farmers and processors keen to serve those markets, but they have been stymied by a combination of the Ontario and national supply-management systems.

 Black cautions on his blog that “If the #ChickenMafia isn't careful, if they push us too far, there will be more and more people looking to find ways to turn the #ChickenMafia into a fossilized dinosaur, and almost all of of the #ChickenMafia will be out of work.”

He says that in the context of an article in the New York Times about a product, made of soybeans, that bears a remarkably close resemblance to chicken, especially when it’s an ingredient in a dish.

In his open letter to quota holders, he writes:

“We do not see quota-based chicken farmers as evil people. 

“We trust that most of you treat your family members, staff, neighbours, and animals with kindness and respect. 

“However, CFO (Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board) as an organization, and the entire Supply Management system has obviously lost it way. 

“While Supply Management may have been a useful tool when it was first created, it has devolved and spun out of control, taken on a life of its own, and no longer serves you, nor the Canadian people.”

“The people of Canada cannot, and will not, wait much longer for government and/or the Supply Management system to recognize the issues, and make public commitments to rapidly fix the system.

“If those admissions are not announced soon, I fear that the system will soon become irreparable, and/or intolerable. 

“If that point is reached, there will be sudden and drastic consequence for the entire system, and many people and organizations will be critically damaged. 

“If this were to occur, the CFO members would likely suffer the greatest losses and damages.

“You can choose to change now in a controllable manner, or you can wait, and then eventually be forced to change later.”

He ends the letter, writing “So if you are a good person, who is not indifferent to the plight of millions of your fellow citizens, I pray that you will cast off inaction, you will take a stand for what is right, and make your voice heard by CFO and all your fellow members that the system must change for the better, and those changes must start now.”