January 9, 2013

Saskatoon, SK and Lakeside, ON – The NFU-O/NFU is extremely disappointed with the OMAFRA Appeals Tribunal decision to dismiss the NFU-O’s application under the Farm Registration and Farm Organizations Funding (FRFOF) Act, 1993. The Rules of Procedure of the Tribunal state that reasons for a decision will be sent to all parties within twenty calendar days of a hearing. As of January 9, 2013, the only information the NFU-O has received from the Tribunal following our December 14, 2012 hearing is the December 19 notice of the dismissal of our application. Without access to the reasons for the negative decision, the NFU cannot respond to the rationale for that decision and cannot make informed decisions on next steps for the organization.

A couple of points should be noted in regard to the dismissal of the NFU-O’s accreditation application. First, in November 2012, the minister amended the regulations under the FRFOF Act. This allowed the other two general farm organizations to move ahead with a new application under the amended regulation. Interim orders issued by the Tribunal in November, 2012 prevented the NFU-O from moving ahead in the same manner under the amended regulations. The Minister’s legal counsel supported the NFU-O’s accreditation application at the December 14 hearing.

Second, over 2,000 farmers in Ontario have chosen the NFU-O to represent their interests since 2002, when the NFU-O was first accredited under the FRFOF Act, 1993. These Ontario farmers have now lost the option to choose the general farm organization that best represents their interests through the Farm Business Registration (FBR) program, and must undertake a time-consuming process to join the NFU.

The National Farmers Union of Canada is truly a national organization. While its head office is in Saskatoon, all areas of Canada are reflected in its policies. We stand for farmers, whether they are in PEI, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta or BC, and whether they produce potatoes, grains, beef, milk cows, vegetables or other products. Again and always, the NFU speaks in the farmer’s interest. The NFU-O’s relationship to the national organization was accepted by several Tribunal panels since 2002. The relationship with the NFU allows the NFU-O to address the concerns of Ontario family farmers at local, provincial, national and international levels.

The problem for some, whether in government, in tribunals or outside of the NFU, is that the NFU unwaveringly speaks truth to power. And this appears to be our crime. Our analysis and effort to advance the interests of farm families across the country are second to none. The quality of our research, the thoroughness of our reading of trade agreements, legislation and regulation are unmatched. We understand completely the power imbalances that seek to exploit family farmers and ordinary citizens, and as such, we have many powerful and wealthy enemies. This has never bothered us, nor slowed us down in speaking the truth.

We stand toe-to-toe with multinational grain companies, seed and chemical companies and government, and have never been silenced. Others have erroneously collaborated with these same players, either directly or passively, to the ultimate harm of farmers. The NFU has never been in that position – where it could be accused of collaborating to the ultimate harm of farmers. In fact, the NFU’s policy analysis has been prescient and proven accurate with the passage of time on issues such as cattle production, UPOV ’91, the impact of trade deals on farmers and farm debt.

Farmers are better off because of the NFU, retaining the right to save, use, exchange and sell seed, stopping the release of GE wheat, and benefiting from our efforts to retain the single desk wheat board for decades. Had other organizations been as steadfast in protecting farmers’ rights, we would still have small abattoirs, the single desk CWB, a strong Canadian Grain Commission, and much less concentration and vertical integration in the beef and hog production and packing industries or among input suppliers.

The NFU will continue both to exist and to represent farmers in Ontario, as well as across the country. We are not going away.  Ontario farmers who want the National Farmers Union to continue to advocate on their behalf, will now need to go to the hassle of joining another farm organization to get their FBR number, requesting a refund from that organization and turning around to send their membership fee directly to the NFU-O. Resources that should be used to advocate for policies that support family farms will now be used to inform farmers about how they can continue to be members of their chosen general farm organization.