[UPDATED: Feb. 6, 2019] Delegates to the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers annual meeting continued to express their displeasure in resolutions over the way their organization has been rearranged over the past couple of years by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.
The Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) held elections for two vice-chair positions at its annual industry conference and grower business session in London on Jan. 31. Michael Denys, a grower from Wallaceburg, and Mike Lenders, an Ilderton-area producer, won the positions.
Why it matters: Ontario’s processing vegetable growers has been experiencing governance turmoil for several years. Both government and industry representatives hope the most recent elections and chair appointment will help improve grower-processor relations.
Ernie, Hardeman, Ontario’s agriculture minister, also announced the appointment of Dave Hope as chair of the OPVG board. Hope, a former mixed livestock farmer, replaces Suzanne van Bommel – who announced she was stepping down on Jan. 30.
In a letter published by the minister’s office on Jan. 31, Hardeman says reiterated his belief in the importance and potential growth of Ontario’s processing vegetable sector.
“We are confident that in working together, Dave and the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Board will strengthen the industry,” the letter says.
Hope has held many positions within the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, having worked as assistant deputy minister on portfolios in food safety, environment, economic development, and regulatory marketing. He also held posts as policy director and manager of economic analysis for the ministry, as well as other positions in various agricultural institutions within and outside Ontario. His appointment marks the second chair appointment for the OPVG board since the Ontario government fired the board and installed a trustee in the winter of 2017.
It also follows tense discussions between growers and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission last February, and contentious OPVG director elections held in December 2018.
The annual grower meeting was closed to the media this year, even though it has been historically open to the public. Reducing media coverage of the sector was also a target of the grower resolutions. The results of the vote on resolutions were provided to Farmtario after the meeting.
The resolutions are not binding of the board of directors of the organization.
Among the resolutions that passed were:
- Resolutions that dealt with the appointed chair of the organization (who was replaced just before the meeting) including a request for an annual performance review of the chair and a review of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission’s appointments. Another resolution called for there to be an elected chair of the board.
- Resolutions that supported David Epp, a grower and board member whose family’s farm has lost contracts to the point at which he will not be able to sit on the board of directors, were approved, including one related to investigating how such actions will discourage board representation.
- Resolutions that called for media to be barred from regional meetings as well as the annual meeting of the organization, and that the resolutions to be voted on at the annual meeting be kept only to those who are attending the grower meeting instead of being available to the attendees of the OPVG conference where the annual meeting is held.
- A resolution that dealt with the fact that the Ontario price for processing tomatoes is based on the California price and, as happened in 2018, when California growers fail to come to a price, the Ontario price is based on the California price from the previous year.
The OPVG board is scheduled to review the resolution results with Hope on Feb. 8.
Cathy Lennon, general manager for OPVG, says the OPVG held elections for positions on all crop negotiating agencies, and successfully filled those positions, on Tuesday Jan. 29.
“Negotiations will begin imminently and are expected to conclude by March 22, 2019 for the 2019 crop year,” she says. “The OPVG board is looking forward to working with the new chair, and productive discussions and negotiations with all processors.”