VFO takes ‘next step’ by hiring compliance officer

Former police officer will target non-payment of veal checkoff fee

Former police officer will target non-payment of veal checkoff fee

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Veal Farmers of Ontario (VFO) has hired a veteran of both municipal policing and border services for a newly-created position of inspection and compliance officer.

The organization is acting on a recommendation to bring in expertise in auditing and compliance.

Geoff Holwell will join the producer organization on a part-time basis, with his primary responsibilities to ensure compliance with VFO’s regulations and maintain integrity of the licence fee collection system, the organization says.

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Why it matters: There’s a mandatory $5.50 per animal checkoff fee for veal sold in Ontario, and as noted on the organization’s website, there remains a degree of confusion about when and by whom the fee should be paid.

VFO executive director Jennifer Haley says the initial focus will be on licence fee collection, and the bulk of the early work will focus on building relationships rather than cracking down on failure to remit. And even when the cracking down begins, the target audience will be dealers and buyers, rather than veal producers.

“It is possible that Geoff may reach out to some veal producers as part of the audit trail but to be clear, this position is not an on-farm inspector nor is there the capacity to do so,” she said.

In a news release, Haley says VFO has “worked openly and diligently on education and awareness” about the licence fee, “and as a result developed some great partnerships.” But she describes the recent decision as “the next phase of development as an organization and looking to ensure equitable compliance for all stakeholders.”

“The direct benefit for all veal producers is that VFO is ensuring that all producers and industry partners who are required to remit the regulated licence fees to VFO do so in an equitable and transparent manner,” Haley told Farmtario.

“Doing so ensures that VFO can continue to represent the collective needs of the producer – whether that is consumer marketing, research, advocacy or any other program impacting producers.”

The new position represents a reallocation of existing resources.

“Licence fee enforcement has always been part of our budget, staff resources and strategic plan,” Haley said.

In the past, those resources were directed towards an education and awareness role.

Asked if a specific incident or incidents led VFO staff to make the recommendation to the board of directors, she said no. Rather, it was guided by identification of a specific skill set needed for VFO to take the next steps on compliance and enforcement.

VFO is not alone in looking to one-time police officers for expertise. In 2006, Beef Farmers of Ontario hired 25-year OPP veteran Andy Millar as its checkoff inspector. Millar retired from BFO in 2019.

Haley listed the BFO inspector position as one that served as a model for the new VFO role. Along with his experience in the public sector, Holwell also worked as an insurance company claims investigator.

About the author

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Stew Slater

Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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