Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission failing

The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission is failing in its mandate to supervise the Egg Farmers of Ontario Marketing Board.

A number of appeals and challenges recently filed by Sweda Farms Ltd. demonstrate that the commission either doesn't know what's going on, or doesn't care.

What's going on is a number of programs and policies that do nothing to help egg farmers or the public, but line the pockets of egg-grading and egg-processing companies.

The commission seems to be blind to the conflict of interest that exists for the egg board directors who are either owners or employees of those egg-processing companies.

Simply put, too many eggs are being diverted to processing and that costs egg farmers money - millions of dollars per year.

The Egg Farmers of Canada national supply management agency put at Nest Run program into place to displace processed egg products that were being imported. It allocated birds to provinces to be put into production exclusively for this purpose.

Ontario got about 700,000 Nest Run program hens and allocated them to farmers willing to accept the terms which included much lower prices that were designed to cover only the cost of feed and poults. There would be no money for returns on labour, investment or management.

But it practice, it seems that the egg-grading stations don't keep Nest Run eggs separate, but take out a lot of Grade A Large eggs they and farmers can sell at a premium price. At least that's what it looks like to me.

To make up for those taken out, they put cracks, dirts, peewees and other discards into the Nest Run category, and then they get paid the Nest Run price for eggs that would otherwise be worth a lot less. Again, that's just how it looks like to me.

And it looks like systematic rip-offs.

And then you have to think back to when a whistleblower brought evidence to the commission of collusion between the two corporate entities - Burnbrae Farms and L.H. Gray and Son Ltd. - and evidence that they were including eggs that do not qualify as Grade A in that category.

The marketing board garners its levies only from Grade A eggs, so it has an interest in getting as many eggs as possible into that grade standard. It also benefits farmers with higher prices for the top-quality eggs.

But the commission declined to investigate, standing aside for the outcome of court actions. That is frankly an abdication of responsibility.

The commission has not even required the egg board to audit egg-grading stations to determine the accuracy of their grading. Burnbrae and Gray grade about 90 per cent of Ontario's eggs.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency audits consistently revealed over a number of years that seven to nine per cent of eggs Graded A do not qualify, mainly because they are either cracked or dirty.

Surely egg farmers and the board ought to be highly concerned about the quality and integrity of eggs offered to the public. Do they not understand that their greatest financial security rests with satisfied customers?

And farmers should have an interest in how the board is spending their levies and fees to benefit mainly processors.