By Connor Lynch
It’s looking like deja vu for the board of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers.
Last month, Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman directed the Farm Products Marketing Commission to introduce direct marketing for tomatoes.
That undermines the board’s job of collective bargaining in hopes of getting better prices for tomato processors. The growers association says the province’s decision will mean lost farms. “In a relatively short period of time, there would be far fewer players at the table,” said vegetable growers’ general manager Cathy Lennon.
Hardeman said in a news release that direct contracting “will encourage processing investment, enable growers to be profitable, and result in a sector that is competitive and sustainable in the future . . . Maintaining the current system poses a real risk of losing processing plants and related jobs. Too often we have seen the crop year in danger and the future market for Ontario processing vegetable growers put in jeopardy.”
It’s reminiscent of what Geri Kamenz, the former chair of the Farm Products Marketing Commission said in 2017: That the industry needed to do away with collective bargaining or it would slowly wither away. Kamenz tried to do as much, but then-ag minister Jeff Leal intervened.
When asked on May 2 by Farmers Forum how growers benefit from direct contracting, Hardeman said: “This isn’t about one or the other. It’s defending how we’re going to get this industry out of a decline.”