Friday, March 3, 2017

Leal takes over veggie board

Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal has taken over the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Marketing Board and has appointed former NDP agriculture minister Elmer Buchanan trustee and to negotiate tomato-growing contracts for this season.

Leal says he made the move because negotiations between the board and processors are at an impasse and things need to be settled soon for spring planting.

It’s the third chapter in an ongoing drama that began last year when Geri Kamenz, chairman of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, threatened to take away the board’s negotiating powers.

There was a huge outcry from farmers, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, so Leal stepped in to order a round of consultations.

Kamenz resigned, Leal elevated Jim Clark from vice-chairman to commission chairman and consultations began, including a meeting last week.

As trustee, Leal said “Buchanan temporarily assumes the powers of the board to negotiate 2017 contracts, until elections for a OPVG Board are held prior to December 31, 2017.

“This mandate will ensure that Mr. Buchanan assists in the negotiations of 2017 contracts, benefitting both parties involved and saving the tomato season.

“This decision also honours the directive I issued last August to develop a regulatory framework to achieve reform for the 2018 growing season and beyond.

“In making this difficult decision, our government has ensured we maintain our regulated marketing system – one that produces high quality food for the consumers of Ontario, contributes positively to our economy, provide good jobs for Ontarians and ultimately, is a decision that supports farmers, processors and consumers for the well-being of the sector and the province of Ontario,” Leal said.