Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By David Epp, OFA member
My name is David Epp. I’m a vegetable producer from Leamington, Ontario and a member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). I’m extremely concerned about the proposed regulatory changes that are before the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG). We are facing the prospect of losing our right to collective bargaining when it comes to negotiating the prices of processing vegetables we grow. That’s because the Farm Products Marketing Commission has proposed drastic changes to Regulation 440 of the Farm Products Marketing Act.
Other growers and I have expressed our concerns in a letter to the Commission and are now working together with OFA to deliver a stronger voice to oppose these changes.
I farm with my brother and father, and we’ve been involved in processing vegetable production our entire farming careers. We have weathered many changes in the industry over the years – changes in agronomic practices, changes in external competitive forces and changes in the economy we operate in. But nothing compares to the implications of the proposed changes to Regulation 440.
There are four main reasons that OFA is supporting the position of the OPVG on these proposed changes.
The current marketing system negotiates competitive prices for Ontario processing vegetable growers, with a balance of power along the entire value chain from grower to processor to the various marketing channels.
The “free market” system proposed in the changes will actually give buyers the market power to dictate prices and terms, consequently benefiting only a few along the value chain.
The proposed changes will jeopardize vital agronomic research funds that enable innovation and sustainability in our sector.
And finally, the processing vegetable sector – which is an important part of Ontario’s overall economy – will actually lose ground with these changes. The government’s own challenge to grow our sector and create more jobs will be undermined by the changes they are proposed to the Farm Products Marketing Act.
OFA is submitting a letter to the Farm Products Marketing Commission on August 10 to outline its concerns on behalf of its processing vegetable members like me. I encourage other farm organizations and commodity groups to support these efforts. We need a proper process, with transparent consultation, before making changes like Regulation 440 that is threatening the livelihood of farmers and a significant sector of our industry.
In the case of my farm, Lycoland Farms, if the negotiating authority is removed from the OPVG board, we will seek to find an orderly exit from our investments tied to this industry as our confidence in future opportunities in the processing vegetable sector will be lost.