Tribunal plucks chicken farmer's plans
A Manitoulin Island man's effort to be able to raise more than 300 chickens on his Ice Lake farm for his product has met with the proverbial chopping block.
"While a qualifying chicken producer may have had a right to make an application for quota allotment to CFO (Chicken Farmers of Ontario), we are unable to find any authority to extend that right to someone who was not a chicken producer during the qualifying period, even where, as here, that person is the son of a chicken producer," said the Ontario Farm Products Tribunal in its decision. "(And) In our view, affordability cannot be the basis for the tribunal to grant Max Burt an exemption from the Regulation, so as to permit him to produce and market 2,040 units of chicken. If we were to use affordability as an exemption criterion, it would render CFO's existing exemption policy, as reflected in Section 2.02 of the Regulation, meaningless. Further, treating affordability as an exemption criterion could open a flood of exemption applications from some, if not all the other 14,000 registered chicken growers in the province. Finally, treating affordability as an exemption criterion would eventually undermine the chicken quota system, which is the foundation of the chicken supply management system in Ontario.
"Therefore, we conclude that Max Burt is not entitled to an exemption to produce 2,040 units of chicken without quota."
Burt, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, had argued his appeal of a CFO decision before a three-member tribunal in Greater Sudbury on Nov. 1.
Burt, who bought his farm in 1996 from his father, Edward, was raising as many as 1,500 chickens a year from 2001-04 without a quota from Chicken Farmers of Ontario -- the marketing board for Ontario chicken producers.
The board allows farmers to raise up to 300 chickens a year for personal consumption and on-farm sales without having a quota, but the farms have to be registered.
Max Burt, who was slapped with a $200 fine after being found guilty in provincial offences court in 2004 for violating that rule and has been stopped from raising and selling chickens, had been looking to have his farm "grandfathered" through a historical exemption and get back up to the 1,500-chickens-a-year figure, add another 300 birds that were allowed under the exemption, and two per cent a year for annual growth from 2004-11 for a total annual production figure of about 2,040 chickens.
More than four decades ago, the Ice Lake farm had a thriving chicken business involving annual production of some 9,600 chickens and Burt's father was involved, but Edward never went to the board when it was created in 1965 and asked for a quota based on historical production. A meat processing plant on the farm was later shut down. Max brought the plant back into use in 1996 to process both red and white meat.
The board was opposed to Max ' Burt's chicken plans, arguing that he should purchase chicken quota in order to raise his birds
Board lawyer Geoff Spurr said in his final submissions that Edward Burt had a turkey quota, but never sought a chicken quota from the Chicken Farmers of Ontario when it was created.
Spurr also noted that the historical ledger of poultry production that Max Burt provided the tribunal with did not contain poultry head count numbers for 1964 -- the key year as far as the board is concerned --just weights of the birds processed.
As well, a board check of the 20 farms that are raising chick-e ns on Manitoulin Island found they are nowhere near the 300 limit they could reach without having to get a quota, said Spurr.
According to the board, there are some 16,550 registered chicken farms in Ontario.
During his testimony to the tribunal, Max Burt said he was disappointed with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario because he believes they do not understand the North and its needs.
Max Burt also noted that if all of the 20 chicken farmers on Manitoulin Island had their maximum 300 birds, they would only meet about 2.5% of the Island's annual chicken consumption of about 35 kilograms/ person.
Some 25 people turned out for the one-day hearing that went almost five hours.
In addition to producing turkeys, the Burt Farm on Ice Lake produces maple syrup, pork and beef products.
Source: The Sudbury Star