The newly re-elected head of the National Farmers Union of Ontario says farm groups need to stand up and let the province know they want collective bargaining.
The NFU was holding its Ontario convention at Ridgetown when it heard the Ministry of Agriculture “wiped out” the Ontario Processing Vegetable Grower board “with the stroke of a pen.” The ministry said it feared the upcoming tomato harvest would be in jeopardy because talks had stalled. Board officials say they were close to a deal but one processor Highbury Canco, walked away from the table. A trustee has been appointed to bargain for the farmers.
That worries Emery Huszka – the Florence farmer who will be the NFU-O’s president for another year. He is concerned and says the organization is reaffirming its support for democratically-elected marketing boards. He also called for the restoration of the OPVG board members with their powers intact.
“This is a wake-up call,” says Huszka. “This sends a clear message to processors… if you yell loud enough, don’t worry the province will cut the farmers off.” And he thinks other commodity groups could find themselves in the same spot. “All partners in the supply chain need to make a living,” he says. “No doubt processors are facing a problem with high hydro costs, higher labour costs… with the retail market squeezing on one end, the only place left to squeeze is the farmers. Farmers are probably the weakest link. The government is supposed to be there to stand up for us, but really they stood up for the processors.”
Huszka is calling on all farm marketing boards to publicly voice concern for the move and speak out for growers collective bargaining before another group is shut out of the process.
“Government has clearly shown if you have issues, we’ll act and the marketing board is the one we’ll pinch.”