The current state of the WTO discussions has all of the supply-managed farm organizations on edge. I receive daily emails and read agricultural news articles that update me to the state of the negotiations. It appears to me that supply management is being threatened greatly and I looked forward to attending my zone meeting that was held last night. I expected to hear about the current state of the WTO discussion. I also expected to hear about the EFO’s plan to defend itself against the threat and EFO’s plan if supply management is defeated as a result of the WTO talks. Imagine my surprise when I learned that my Board of Directors and management staff really didn’t have a plan if supply management was defeated. That’s right – no “Plan B”! I began to feel like I was a tobacco farmer rather than an egg farmer. The other fact that surprised me was that I seemed to be the only member who was surprised by this. I am a small egg producer – only 5000 hens. Imagine how uncomfortable I might have been if I held the average egg producer flock of just under 23,000 birds! But to my surprise there seemed to be an aura of calmness throughout the room – except for me. I hope it’s not just because I’m American.
I questioned the EFO general manager, Harry Pelissero (pictured/speaker in post) about the Board’s plan of action if supply management was defeated. Harry continued the conversation, much like a politician, but didn’t really answer my question. I agreed with nearly all of Harry’s comments but pointed out that he really hadn’t answered my question. This generated a chuckle or two. Harry replied that he felt that the Board’s plan was an action plan against the threat to supply management but there really was no plan of action if supply management is gone. I then stated that as a member, I wished to voice the need for a separate plan of action in addition to what is currently in place to defend against the threat. I was not given any assurance that a “Plan B” would be initiated but I intend to make my request again at the annual meeting in March, pending the state of the WTO negotiations at the time. By that time, it may be too late. This lack of attention by farmers to get involved in their own industry – an industry that provides them with a living!- confuses me. What is it going to take to get members involved in their own industry? Am I the only member who thinks that there needs to be a “Plan B”? The livelihood of egg farmers is being threatened. Isn’t that enough? Get involved folks! Educate yourself, communicate to your Directors and let them know how to look after your best interest and to protect you – with or without supply management.