National Farmers Union - Ontario Refutes Tribunal Decision

(May 3, 2013) The National Farmers Union – Ontario (NFU-O) refutes the recently released reasons issued by the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal. After waiting almost 120 days for the reasons, the NFU-O Council has spent the past few weeks consulting with members and leadership involved at all levels of the organization.
 
Tony McQuail, Huron County farmer, NFU-O member, and Local President asserts, “It is completely inappropriate for three unelected appointees to tell our members how they should run this organization. The Tribunal has completely misunderstood the relationship between the NFU and the NFU-O, and we are not going to change this to please an unreasonable Tribunal.”
 
McQuail who was the executive assistant to Elmer Buchanan, Minister of Agriculture, when the stable funding legislation was created recalls, “The original intent when developing the legislation was to have the NFU grandfathered in so that farmers could have a choice. The minister intended to have three organizations so that farmers could choose who best represents them.” In the ten years since accreditation was achieved, NFU-O membership has increased from 250 up to 2400 FBR members in 2012.
 
In its reasons, the Tribunal implies that the NFU-O is using nefarious means to access stable funding. “This is patently false,” declares John Sutherland, NFU-O president. “In Canadian government, there is a federal level with national and international jurisdiction, the provinces with their own legislatures and powers, and the municipalities, which look after the day-to-day work of making our lives better. There is cooperation between all three levels, and funding for the various projects is often shared for the betterment of all. The same is true of the NFU, NFU-O and Locals. The Tribunal has missed the point that we are all working for the betterment of Ontario farmers at every level.”
 
NFU-O Council also rejects the Tribunal’s representation of the relationship between the NFU and NFU-O as being top-down. “In fact, it’s exactly the opposite,” Sutherland says. “They have not understood that that the same people vote whether listed as Region 3 or NFU-O. Ontario members are the only people who can vote and direct Council by passing resolutions. Our commitment to women’s and youth participation in the organization mirrors their integral role in family farming.”
 
Sutherland notes that in its reasons, the Tribunal clearly states, “This is not to say that a farm organization in Ontario cannot affiliate with a national farm organization. Such affiliations are common through the agriculture industry and can provide benefits to Ontario farmers on issues of national concern.” “Given this clear direction, the NFU-O does not understand how the Tribunal could deny it accreditation,” he wonders.
 
NFU-O Council has requested a meeting with the Honourable Premier Wynne to discuss the issue of accreditation. Council acknowledges the assistance of Premier Wynne and Ministry of Agriculture staff who have supported the NFU-O’s position before the Tribunal especially in interpreting specific sections of the act. Due to the Tribunal’s extended delay, the ministry also applied for a writ of mandamus against the Tribunal. It was after receiving notice of this application that the Tribunal released their reasons for dismissal. The NFU-O looks forward to continuing to work with the Ministry and the Conservative and NDP parties to achieve the NFU-O’s reaccreditation.
 
John Sutherland concludes, “The ministry wants support for a local food act. Consumers want local food grown by small family farmers. The NFU and NFU-O in various incarnations have been supporting small local farmers in Ontario since the 1960s. You need us.”
 
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For more information:
John Sutherland, NFU-Ontario President:519-855-4651 or jjsutherland@sympatico.ca
Tony McQuail, Huron County farmer, NFU-O member, and Local President:519-528-2493 or mcqufarm@hurontel.on.ca