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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