Delanghe: Changes to processing vegetable regs not welcome

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TO:  All of the people involved in changing our processing vegetable regulations

RE:  Minister Ernie Hardeman’s announcement for direct marketing for processing vegetables in an open letter dated April 16, 2019.

Absolute shock is the emotion I would use for the moment I read Minister Hardeman’s announcement for suggested changes to the way prices and terms are determined for tomatoes in Ontario.  I thought that since we had a new Minister, that our present government would have a better unbiased view of our industry, but I guess I was wrong.  The suggested changes in the recent announcement, by allowing processors to contract directly with growers is not sustainable, and will absolutely hinder and possibly kill our industry as we know it today.

Since the Minister decided not to consult with growers prior to his announcement, there are clearly inaccuracies in the facts stated in the letter.  Exports out of Ontario have increased, not declined.  Imports have not increased. (as stated in Veg board letter to tomato growers dated April 24, 2019). If there had been open unbiased dialogue amongst the whole industry, it would have lent at least some credence to anything that is being stated.

The Ontario vegetable board has been around for over 70 years and now a newly minted Minister, a couple of processors and maybe a few growers have decided that this system needs to change drastically.  I would say to them that the same fundamental reasons for the boards’ formation are still very much at play today!  Today, like then, in Ontario we still have very large processors that want to source very cheap product from growers and will do anything to get their way.  I am sure that the reasons that are being stated for elimination of the veg board are consistent to what we as growers have heard for 70+ years, in that our processors are always closing their doors based on the fact that the price they pay for product is too high.  This is also coupled with the fact that we are dealing with larger investments and perishable commodities, makes for a very strained and unstable environment. The so-called longstanding problem of price negotiation is working, as it allows free unfettered settlement of our annual contracts. We had a very healthy and stable vegetable processing industry in Ontario prior to 2016 when the drastic changes to our regulations were forced upon us from a “dictatorship” type government.

We see the “writing on the wall” already, so my son and I have decided to exit the vegetable industry for now.  Now that you are putting the final nail in the veg industry coffin, we absolutely do not regret our decision. We also realize that our farming community as a whole will suffer from what is being announced, which indirectly affects us going forward.  We would also like to make you aware that we would absolutely entertain the idea of growing processing vegetables again in the future, after a proper collective bargaining system is allowed in Ontario again.  Please consider all of the negative ramifications of your announcement!

Mark Delanghe

(present active farmer and past processing vegetable producer for 40 years) 

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