Monthly Archives: March 2011

Yet Another Cracked Egg

 

 

 

So, as I wait to hear back from Paul Glenney and Geri Kamenz at Farm Products, I have been informed that an       opportunity to be exempted from one of the looming lawsuits/investigations was presented to EFO.  What a happy day!  But wait, the opportunity was not acted upon by the Board of Directors of EFO.  They instead chose to stay in the lawsuit.  Hey Egg Producers!  Did you know this?  The letter to EFO’s lawyer is shown at the bottom of this posting.  Is this yet another autocratic decision?  A decision that is going to be funded by…….. that’s right – Egg Producers!  Don’t the Board of Directors members have a fiduciary obligation to the egg producers of EFO?  Of course they do.  And with decisions like this, they’re neglecting that obligation.  If tolerance to this type of decision – a decision that threatens the egg industry – continues, then maybe it’s time to end supply management?  If you agree that it’s time to take a grassroots action and take control back to the egg producers with full transparency, let the Board of Directors know.  And then let Farm Products know because the Board may not even acknowledge to anyone that they’ve been notified, i.e. there’s no minutes of any of their activity!  So how are the egg producers supposed to know what’s happening?  It’s time for the egg producers to take control of their future.  If they don’t, the levies they pay are bound to go up – to pay for all the legal costs of the lawsuits that the Board chooses to fight – even though the General Manager says these lawsuits aren’t going to cost anything.  I think I need to switch lawyers – to the one that doesn’t charge for their services! The levies are already almost 40 cents/dozen.  That’s approximately $10.00/bird (.40 x 25 dozen marketable eggs/bird).  How high does it have to go before you say, “No more”.  The annual meeting is coming up.  Voice your opinion and make sure that somebody records it!  The EFO staff sure won’t!

March 3, 2011 – Settlement Proposal & Agreement to EFO

Mr. Geoffrey Spurr

Re: Sveda Farms Ltd. V. EFO

I am concerned that the anticipated continued public examination of these issues in the

farm press will undermine the public`s confidence in supply management. Social media

spread this information worldwide even faster. My clients are strong supporters of supply

management. I have worked with the EFO Board of Directors in the past, as well as with

many other supply management Boards. Since I represent farmers aggrieved by decisions

of these Boards I often find myself in disagreement on some issue with the Board making

the decision, however, I have always found the members of these Boards to be respectful,

diligent and honest. I think you would agree that in spite of all our dairy battles, I get

along quite well with individual members of the DFO Board.

The attached draft Mary Carter Agreement between my client and EFO is proposed to

allow the Board of EFO an opportunity to disavow any involvement with the alleged

conduct of its General Manager. It is put forward as an offer to settle under the Rules of

Civil Procedure with EFO only. We are prepared to negotiate. However, time is of the

essence since, if settlement is possible, to save it should be completed before next

Thursday`s motions.

Please review this settlement offer with the Board members of EFO and advise of their

position.

Sincerely yours,

Donald R. Good, P.Ag.

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Get Crackin’ Before It’s Too Late

Since my last posting (March 6, 2011), I’ve had many communications within the egg industry as I continue to research the allegations that have been made by Mr. Norman Bourdeau.  I’m also considering the possible consequences to egg producers and the supply-managed system as a result of these allegations.  If the allegations are true – even some of them, there would be evidence that the statement from the EFO mandate “to provide consumers with a guaranteed supply of safe, high quality eggs at the most reasonable prices possible” is in question.  If consumers lose faith in this system, the entire egg supply system could be in jeopardy.  For those producers that just paid $200+ for quota, I would think that they should be more than a bit concerned.  Is it time for egg producers to stand up and say that an investigation into their own operations is required and/or demanded?  If they want to save/defend their industry and protect their livelihood, it is.

Based on recent communications from the Board of Directors to their egg producers, it would appear that egg producers haven’t been consulted on the plan of action toward this allegation.  The communications state that the Board of Directors “will continue to vigorously defend itself and its staff”.  Is that what the egg producers want?  Is the Board of Directors acting independently or have the egg producers been asked what direction would be best for the industry?  Maybe an approach to defend their industry would be a better approach?  Maybe an approach where the parties that have alleged claims against them are asked to step aside while the investigation continues?  I know that some producers are reluctant to come forward and lead the charge for an approach such as the one suggested because they are fearful that this Board of Directors and current EFO staff will “make problems for them”.  Really?  What kind of a Board of Directors and paid staff would convey that type of retaliation?  Maybe one that is protected – one that operates within walls where minutes are withheld from their paying egg producers – one where egg producers are not allowed to even attend Board meetings since minutes aren’t provided.  Imagine how much retaliation could be dished out when there is no opportunity for recourse.  Makes me think that an autocratic environment has been created.  Could that be the case?  What do the egg producers think?

EFO states that they are “very limited in its ability to share information with you or to comment or respond to any of the media reports that continue to circulate”.  While this may be true, I would think that the ability to ask all the producers for their opinions on how to best protect their industry is allowed and should occur.  And actions that protect the industry may not be the same actions that protect the staff and Board of Directors.   I know asking for producer opinion is a novel idea for EFO as the current leadership style has done so well for them, right?  Just look where this leadership has gotten them – right in the middle of lawsuits and a potential investigation.  And the GM has been quoted in his response to a producer question regarding the costs of these lawsuits to EFO (funded entirely by producer levies!).  The GM replied that it would cost nothing.  Are you kidding?  Even before consideration of legal costs, I’ve seen at least two letters that were generated to all 400+ producers to address these lawsuits.  Aren’t the meeting(s)held, telephone conversations had, emails back and forth, etc. to create these 400+ letters done at a cost as a result of these lawsuits?  I think so – and legal costs haven’t even come into the picture.  Wake up egg producers.  Get crackin’ before there’s egg on your face.

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Rooster in the Hen House?

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Sometimes there’s great satisfaction in saying “I told you so” – but not this time.  In earlier postings on this blog, I   commented about the fact that Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) weren’t being transparent in their operations.  In my   examples, they weren’t being transparent to me, a former producer of eggs, and one of approximately 400 Ontarians that fund ALL of their operations.  So if they’re not transparent to one of the hands that feeds them, why would they be transparent to consumers?  If allegations are correct, turns out they haven’t been.  Check out a couple of my former postings (May 18, 2008, February 12, 2008 and February 5, 2008) and two Better Farming articles (www.betterfarming.com/online-news/egg-case-sealed-3870 and

www.betterfarming.com/online-news/egg-industry-gets-cracking-lawsuits-fly-3836)

as well.  I’ve also just sent a letter to Ontario Farm Products Council asking them, yet again, to force changes at EFO to make sure that transparency is evident and that Canadian consumers and Ontario egg producers are being protected.  I’ve posted this letter here in this post.  Stay tuned for further developments – if the courts allow.

Farm Products Marketing Commission                                      March 7, 2011

5th Floor, 1 Stone Road West

Guelph, Ontario

N1G 4Y2

Attn:  Paul Glenney

Dear Mr. Glenney,

I am a former egg producer for Ontario, having sold my quota in September/2011.  I sold my quota for numerous reasons, i.e. the price was right, the timing was right for my life choices, etc.  But I also was having difficulty with the management of EFO.  I communicated my difficulties regularly through my EFO Director and through other industry members.  Periodically I vocalized my difficulties through a blog that I author entitled ‘Hoosier in Canada’. (This blog was set up as an academic requirement for a graduate Agricultural Communications diploma that I completed through the University of Guelph.)  During one of my peak times of difficulty (2007 and 2008), I contacted your office and spoke with you and/or another staff member (Mary?) and told your office that I had requested minutes for EFO Board meetings and/or other meetings.  I made this request to your office after having made the request to my EFO Zone Director (at that time), Paul Renkema (See attached email of my request). I was told by Mr. Renkema that I was not entitled to minutes, even though I was a producer who generated the funds by which EFO operates.  I even offered to drive to the EFO Board meetings and attend the meetings personally with no speaking privileges and was denied this request as well.  I recall my conversation with your office and it was conveyed to me that I should be able to get minutes if “I asked the right person”.  I asked your office how long I was supposed to ”hit my head against the wall” in my attempts to become fully aware of the activity of the organization that I was funding.  I was simply told, “Please don’t give up – please keep asking questions.”  I never did discover ‘who’ the right person was, I never did get minutes of meetings and was never allowed to attend EFO Board meetings – meetings that included decisions that affected an industry for which I contributed greatly.  I got tired of ‘hitting my head against the wall’ without receiving cooperation from an organization that I funded and without receiving cooperation or guidance from your office.  And quite frankly, I was making a good return on my investment as an egg producer.  Why should I complain?  Some industry people told me not to ‘rock the boat’.  I was told to “Take your egg money to the bank and enjoy the ride.”  My instincts told me that there were inefficiencies and when I was shut out of my requests for information, my instinctual radar alarm sounded louder than ever.  But as a small fish (approximately 5000 hens) in a big pond, I was merely an annoyance and was brushed aside easily.  In short, I gave up and sold my quota.

Now I have become aware of a request from Norman Bourdeau, to Farm Products Council, for a provincial investigation  to investigate matters relating to the production, processing and/or marketing of Ontario eggs.  As I read about Mr. Bourdeau’s request, I wonder if accountability for minutes of EFO’s activities would have caused producers and your office to be more aware of exactly what has been allegedly hidden and going on for years.  At the time of my request to EFO for minutes, I asked what it was that was being hidden.  I asked for transparency of an organization whose mandate is to provide consumers with a guaranteed supply of safe, high quality eggs at the most reasonable prices possible.  This is accomplished through the efficient management of the production of eggs, research, product promotion and ongoing marketing activities.  As a producer that funded this mandate, I should have been entitled to such transparency and with these most recent allegations, it is apparent that your organization that oversees EFO should and must require this transparency.  Your organization failed to assist me when I first requested your help and now it appears that my instinct that information was being withheld for a greedy and destructive purpose was accurate.  At a minimum, the egg producers (who are the voting members of this organization and the source of levies that funds all of EFO’s activities) are entitled to know how their money is being spent, where it is being spent and the decisions that are being made on their behalf by their elected Councillors and Board of Directors Members.

Regardless of the outcome of your investigation into the alleged activities, please make appropriate changes to ensure that EFO and the supply management process are transparent.  There are constant pressures from other non-supply-managed farm groups to discontinue the support for supply management.  The average consumer is not completely aware of what supply management is.  If it is expected that supply management is going to be maintained, your organization needs to ‘clean up’ the system in order to provide consumers with some confidence that supply management is working.  If even a small percentage of Mr. Bourdeau’s allegations are correct, the EFO are not fulfilling their mandate and supply management isn’t working.

Regards,

Melissa Snyder

Snyderdale Farms

Email from Melissa Snyder to Paul Renkema, then EFO Zone 6 Director dated April 12, 2007

Paul,

Sorry for the delay in sending this email.  If I remember correctly, you had asked me to send you an email

specifically outlining my comments/questions that I had discussed with you at the annual meeting in

Toronto.  Hope this is what you were looking for.  I may have added an item that I didn’t mention to you

in person but if you have any questions, please let me know.

1.  I had asked about ‘enforcement’ costs as a part of the total legal costs.  Harry had emailed me a number

of approximately $80,000.00 right after our zone annual meeting.  The final tally was closer to $140,000.00 in

the annual meeting document.  Please explain the difference.  As well, you mentioned something about a

‘post-mortem’ of the whole Carmichael incident.  I would like to be informed of this analysis and would like to

know when it will be completed.

2.  I had asked for some specifics regarding the remuneration for Directors (i.e. the annual ‘honorarium’, limits

on daily expenses, etc.) and if there was a written policy for this area.  If there is a written policy, could I please

have a copy.  In addition to that, do the Directors get T-4’s from the OEF?

3.  Am I entitled to have access to minutes of the Board meetings?  Am I allowed to attend Board meetings?

4.  I noticed that the final bottom line budget figures from the zone annual meeting handout and the producer annual meeting

were very different.  It is stated in the Auditor’s report that they do not review these numbers.  Why are the numbers

between the two meetings so different?

I think that’s all for now but I must admit that I do like Harry’s new closing motto of “Never give up, never go away” – so

if I have more questions, I will let you know.

Thanks so much for your help and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

Melissa Snyder

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