Tag Archives: EFO

Did Gray, Burnbrae or EFO ‘Inhale’ or Not?

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According to a blog post by Jim Romahn (http://agri007.blogspot.com/2013/06/court-documents-detail-egg-deficiencies.html), Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reports demonstrate that the statements made by Norman Bourdeau about cracks being packed into retail Grade A egg cartons, are true.  Attempts to keep this evidence hidden have been going on for years and now the ‘yolk’ is on L. H. Gray/Gray Egg Farms.  The consequences for this are yet to be determined, but let’s hope there are some consequences.  Especially since Gray, through his legal representative, has been protesting and denying this practice vehemently since this whole saga began. 

 

Gray isn’t the only party who said the equivalent of “but I didn’t inhale”.  Burnbrae Eggs and the Egg Farmers of Ontario also took that position.  So is Mr. Bourdeau correct about them too?  I had hoped that Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission would have at least checked into EFO as they are the supervising body for EFO.  Literally after years of repeated requests, Farm Products is finally (and probably reluctantly) ‘investigating’ EFO – but it’s just their transparency that is being questioned.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been hollering about EFO’s lack of transparency for years so I’m thankful that Farm Products is finally doing something – or at least appear to be doing something.  But this goes beyond transparency and that should be evident to all parties involved – egg producers, graders, Farm Products, CFIA and the Ministry of Agriculture.  If only the majority of consumers understood the egg industry and supply management, this would have been investigated long ago. 

 

It appears that Mr. Bourdeau is not Chicken Little stating that the sky is falling.  The question is how many foxes are there in this tale?  

 

 

 

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So Easy to Spend A Million Bucks

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Jim Romahn thinks Harry Pelissero and the Egg Farmers of Ontario are in a hurry to start a new process for quota sales and purchases (April 23, 2013 post – http://agri007.blogspot.ca).  Seems Harry and the Board is in a hurry to spend the egg producer’s money too.  Must be burning a hole in their pocket or there’s an awful lot of women on that Board?  This time it is $1 million towards clinical drug trials for an antidepressant.  Technically the expenditure doesn’t even fall into the EFO mandate or mission since the trials are slated to use fertilized eggs – which aren’t a part of EFO’s oversight. 

 

I would bet that the decision to fund these trials didn’t even warrant much of an explanation to the producers.  My guess is that the producers were merely told that this is what’s happening.  Got questions about it?  Too bad.  Did anyone ask about liability?  Sure hope EFO can’t be associated with future lawsuits from the use of this antidepressant, if and/or when it’s approved for use.  But did anyone even ask?  Doubt it.  Check out a recent Maclean’s article if you think it can’t happen.  (http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/04/20/theres-a-pill-for-that/).  How about getting an outside, independent opinion about the trials?  Was that considered?  Who would know, since minutes aren’t available?

 

And where did this $1 million dollars come from?  It came from the pockets of the producers.  How’d that feel producers?  Does the phrase ‘lay there and love it’ mean anything to you?  Maybe the egg producers are all wealthy enough that $1 million is just a drop in the bucket for them?

 

Is the Farm Products Commission watching this unfold?  Is this what EFO was set up to do?  I don’t think so.     

 

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The Tangled Web Woven by EFO and Ontario Farm Products Commission

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As a former EFO egg producer, I constantly asked my Board of Director to improve the transparency of the management of EFO.  When I became dissatisfied with the absence of improvements, I complained to the overseeing government body of EFO, the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, to take action to force EFO to become more transparent.  And let’s be clear, I wasn’t asking for videotaped meetings being shown on YouTube.  I wasn’t asking to view the complete accounting ledgers of EFO’s operations.  I was asking for minutes of meetings!  I was asking for accountability regarding how EFO was spending the money that I provided for them!  Quite simply, I was asking for honesty.  I guess that’s too much to ask from EFO and it appears that Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission has difficulty being honest as well after having read Jim Romahn’s August 20, 2012 blog posting about their lack of transparency (http://agri007.blogspot.ca/2012/08/kamenz-accused-of-misleading-egg-lawyer.html). 

 Over the weekend, I was told about a form that all EFO Board of Directors are required to sign when they become a Director.  The form is in place so that the Directors agree not to talk or discuss with anyone, even egg producers, about policy, procedures or business activities of EFO.  Well, holy shit!  Why does EFO even have a Board of Directors?  Just let Mr. Pelissero run EFO and get rid of the façade of having a producer-run Board.  Quit having the meetings and paying all the Directors to go to them!  Those honorariums are going to be needed to fund the legal defense anyway.  The Directors should be ashamed of themselves if they agree to sign this form and accept the terms included in the form.  And the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission appears to be in EFO’s back pocket.  Taxpayer dollars wasted again!  The head of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, Geri Kamenz should recognize that the tail is wagging the dog.  Maybe that’s how it worked at Mr. Kamenz previous job, Ontario Federation of Agriculture?  I guess farmers are accustomed to having their taxpayer dollars wasted. 

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It’s Your Own Damn Fault

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There’s a phrase in the English language that I often use.  When my colleagues have stated it to me, it often makes me feel appropriately guilty and sometimes it makes me feel appropriately foolish.  The phrase is “it’s your own damn fault”.  I use this phrase when business associates, friends and family complain about certain situations affecting life.  The complaints can be personal, political, social, or financial but from an objective perspective it’s very easy to look at these complaints and assign the accountability phrase of “well, it’s your own damn fault”.  I’ve often commented that I (or any other writer) could write a weekly column entitled “It’s your own damn fault”.  There’s a never-ending supply of actions that could have that headline attached to it. 

Now that Canada has received and accepted the invitation to the Trans Pacific Trade Talks, the likelihood of hearing that phrase (or some similar phrase) will increase.  I don’t pretend to know the dairy industry or the chicken industry, but I am very familiar with the egg industry and EFO (Egg Farmers of Ontario).  The Board and management of this organization have been taking actions that make supply management (and its secret operations) look like a very poor system for consumers.  The Board’s actions don’t try to make the system more efficient, more transparent or even better at all – except of course for those folks who benefit monetarily from the system.

The actions being taken by EFO are an attempt to keep the system in place and keep the lucrative revenue stream to the producers and management of the Board.  Those folks aren’t crazy – they’ve got a sweet thing going.  Right now, all’s quiet on the egg industry lawsuit front but confidential mediation and/or backdoor negotiation is likely underway to keep all the details quiet.  What happens if all that ‘protected’ data gets out to the media during these trade talks?  Will all that attention give the government yet another reason to ‘alter’ the supply management system?  At the end of the trade negotiations, if the tariffs are reduced or eliminated, if the supply management is changed in any way, it will be my voice, along with many, many others that can be heard saying to EFO, “It’s your own damn fault”.  And the sad part is that preparing for the changes or making the system better prior to these trade talks could have and should have been done but the revenues were just too good to want to change the system.  The system is just too comfortable and too protected.  Welcome to the trade talks – and reality.  Hope EFO is ready for the competition.      

 

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Ontario Egg Producers Give Blank Cheque for 2012 Business Operations

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Though I didn’t attend the 2012 Annual General Meeting of the EFO, I did manage to take a peek at the 2011 annual report and financial statements that were handed out there.  Since the numbers contained in that document are as vague and disguised as a politician’s pre-election speech and absent of any 2012 budget figures, I asked an EFO attendee if any budget information was made available to the Ontario egg producers.  The reply was a definite and resounding “No”.  I thought the response was just a joke.  Wrong.  How could that be?  The two hundred plus egg producers of Ontario have given a blank cheque to a group of individuals who have landed the EFO smack dab in the middle of a multi-million dollar law suit.  Given a blank cheque to a group of individuals who provide only general information, when convenient and keep all details of the egg industry business behind closed doors.  Given a blank cheque to a group of individuals who are supposed to be ‘volunteers’ but wait!  That same group took home over $700,000 in ‘per diem payments and expenses’.  By the way, wouldn’t those payments be considered taxable benefits by the CRA?  Were T4’s given?  I think all of us know the answer to that.  Not bad for volunteers, eh? 

Since the past chair of the EFO likes to use ‘old sayings’, here’s one that definitely applies to Ontario egg producers after this lack of action at the annual meeting:  “A fool and his money are soon parted.”  Giving an open and ‘sky-less’ budget to the current EFO leadership team is completely incredible.  Where is the Chief Financial Officer, giving advice to the producers, telling the producers that it is a wise and necessary action to complete and approve a budget for the upcoming year’s revenues and expenses?  An action that promotes accountability.  Wait.  What am I thinking?  Isn’t the Chief Financial Officer or in this case, the secretary-treasurer of the Board, Harry Pelissero?  Is it wise for the keeper of the cash to be the same person that makes the decisions on how much cash to spend?  Why would Harry advise the producers to take a wise and proactive step to make HIM more accountable?  He’s just made it easier to avoid accountability for his actions.    

What are the egg producers of Ontario thinking?  Not thinking with their brains obviously!  I didn’t know the Board of Directors and the management team of EFO could have the same effect on the Ontario egg producers as a gorgeous woman has on a virile heterosexual man.  I can’t imagine that Harry is dressing that provocatively these days!  These producers are simply making it so easy for supply management opponents to make a case for the dissolution and/or major changes to the supply management system.   

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Should Breaking Rules Cost Money?

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In Jim Romahn’s March 23/2012 blog post, Mr. Romahn describes recent actions being taken by Norman Bourdeau, the whistleblower in the egg industry lawsuits.  Mr. Bourdeau is accusing L.H. Gray of essentially not following the rules.  Are there consequences for not following the rules?  There are consequences in my household when rules are broken.  My long-suffering kids can attest to that but from Mr. Bourdeau’s point of view it appears that there haven’t been any consequences to the alleged rule-breaking behaviours of L.H. Gray and others involved in the egg industry lawsuit.

So let’s apply this ‘rule-following’ exercise to the egg producers themselves.  When Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) wanted egg producers to implement more stringent barn sanitation methods, now known as HAACP, EFO sent all producers a letter outlining what new protocols were expected.  At this point, the ‘rules’ were voluntary and therefore most producers took the approach of ‘it ain’t broke, don’t need fixin’ approach and changed nothing.  It wasn’t until EFO made HAACP mandatory and tacked on a quota reduction (can you hear those $ signs?) before egg producers ‘willingly’ conformed to the new HAACP rules.  So until there was a monetary consequence, nothing changed.  A similar pattern of behaviour occurred when EFO suggested that cage density for the birds be decreased – nothing happened until a monetary consequence was applied to the lack of action.

What I’m trying to say is that unless egg producers (and in general, most humans) are going to suffer a monetary consequence, behaviours won’t change.  The same holds true for businesses and organizations like Gray and EFO.  They’re going to continue to behave and, in some cases, get away with what could be illegal or unethical behaviour, until a monetary consequence forces them to do otherwise.  Society has come to expect dishonest and unethical behaviour in our business and political leaders.  A study during the most recent provincial election showed that the vast majority of voters expected the political candidates to lie.  It has now become the voter’s responsibility to determine which candidate is lying the least.

The same can be said for the judge’s job in the egg lawsuits.  The judge has to determine which side is lying the least and apply a monetary consequence to stop this behaviour.  It should have been stopped years ago but egos got in the way and a proposed solution was discarded without proper consideration.

A consequence for this ‘rule-breaking’ should be implemented immediately.  It’s up to the egg producers to take that action.

As I get older, it becomes easier for me to tell the truth, let the chips fall where they may and suffer the consequences if I’ve broken the rules.  At the same time, as I age, it’s imperative that I tell the truth because my memory is lacking and I’d forget what I had said if it weren’t the truth!  But the egg industry lawsuits are still a long way from being over, however I’m certain that many of the accusations are true and I hope the monetary consequences are enough to change behaviours (and maybe a few faces?) but realistically human beings are going to continue to break the rules as long as there are no consequences for breaking them.

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Preparing to Remove Secrecy Veil at EFO

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Recently I was given a report about the events of a recent neighbouring zone meeting for Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO).  Surprisingly there seemed to be a contradiction regarding an answer to a question that was brought forward by one of the attending egg producers.  The question involved whether or not EFO members were entitled to minutes of the Board meetings.  The immediate response from the General Manager, Harry Pelissero was that producers are not entitled to the minutes.  He even elaborated that the governing body of EFO didn’t receive minutes either.  Then reluctantly a past Board of Director Member, who also happens to be a lawyer (for what that’s worth?) stated that producers could get the minutes but they had to ask – kinda like a first grader having to ask to use the washroom?  How ridiculous!

First of all, I know that’s crap.  When I was a producer I asked and was told I was not entitled to minutes.  And it was during this former Board member’s term in which I asked.  Where was she when I asked?  Why didn’t she step up and say that I was entitled at that time?  Was there something to hide?  If the statement of claim for the existing lawsuit is accurate, there is a heck of a lot of information hidden.    

Secondly, I want somebody to tell me how it is that the governing body (Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission) can regulate if they aren’t even aware of the decisions that are being made at the EFO Board table?  Based on this information, how can anyone say that supply management is working?  There’s no accountability for EFO.  There should be no one wondering why there’s a huge lawsuit in which EFO is right in the centre. 

Based on the question being raised at the zone meeting, it is obvious there is at least one producer who would like to get minutes – and I’m sure there are more who won’t speak up.  So if one of them asked for my advice, this is what I would tell them.  YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF THE MEETING!  Just because Harry and all of the other ‘suits’ are up at the front, the egg producers are still picking up the tab for this meeting, paying all the salaries, all the honorariums, all the costs for the rooms, food, etc. 

The last time I attended, there was a pseudo-Robert’s Rules of Order process to the meeting.  That means that any producer can make a motion for an action to be done.  For instance, someone should make a motion that minutes are to be taken at each Board meeting and made available to all egg producers.  Make sure that there’s another egg producer ready to second the motion – otherwise Harry will try to keep producers silent.  Having a rogue producer making unexpected motions makes his job a whole lot harder.  But he makes the big bucks (that number is buried somewhere in those elusive financial statements!), paid completely by your levy dollars, so get your money’s worth.  Be prepared for the Board to be confused.  They won’t know what hit them and won’t know how to proceed.  Insist that there is a motion on the floor and needs to be dealt with and voted on by the attending members.  And make sure that there are some producers who will vote in favour of the motion.  It’s not hard, just takes some time. 

Maybe there are other motions that should be raised such as:

–        An analysis of the reasons that EFO is in this legal battle, conducted by an outside consultant in order that EFO avoids this kind of mess in the future

–        Changing the ‘quota-holder’ session to include industry representatives.  This decision was made exclusively by the Board, not the producers.  If producers want the industry reps there, make a motion to include them – even if they’re given attendance-only status, with no right to speak and/or vote.

–        A review of the EFO employee behavioural policy, including a review of the process for dismissing employees who are insubordinate.  This may be needed if Harry loses it and tells producers that they can’t make motions at their own annual meeting.  I think that could constitute insubordination, eh?     

 

Take back your industry.  Be aware of what’s going on within it – starting off by receiving and reading the minutes.  Then you can hold your Board member accountable by asking questions about what’s going on at the Board level.    If any producer needs help to prepare for the meeting, contact me – I’m prepared to suggest possible options.

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