by SUSAN MANN
Proposals to establish marketing boards in each of the rabbit and goat industries failed to garner enough support to pass during recent mail-in votes organized by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.
Jennifer Haley, executive director for both Ontario Goat and Ontario Rabbit, says the commission set the threshold needed for the votes within each of the goat and rabbit industries to pass. The threshold was 66.7 per cent of the total number of voters had to support the proposal and those in favour had to represent 50 per cent of the production for each proposal to pass. The commission conducted the votes during the first part of June and neither one reached the threshold. But the rabbit industry’s vote result was very close.
For the rabbit vote, 60 per cent of producers who voted were in favour of the proposal and the votes in support of establishing a marketing board represented 57 per cent of production. “This was a very, very close call,” she says.
For both the rabbit and goat votes, the commission hasn’t released the total number of eligible voters, Haley says, noting the organizations plan to request that information.
Geri Kamenz, commission chair, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Steve Bowier, president of Ontario Rabbit, says the next step for the organization is for its board to meet and discuss the results. “To me personally it’s pretty clear we keep forging ahead to reach self-sustainability for our organization,” he notes, adding they had a majority of voters in favour of the marketing board proposal but just not enough to meet the commission’s criteria.
The board plans to ask its members what direction they want to proceed in. Bowier says he doesn’t know if there will be another vote at a later date.
Bowier says he was disappointed with the results initially but after looking at the numbers and realizing the majority of voters are in favour he’s encouraged. “I think we’re on the right path.”
Ontario Rabbit is a non-profit producer organization representing commercial rabbit farmers. Despite the outcome of the vote, the organization continues, Haley says. But it will be a challenge to determine how to maintain the current level of service.
For the goat vote, 44.8 per cent of producers who voted supported the marketing board proposal. Milk producers who voted yes represented 40.8 per cent of milk production; meat producers who voted yes represented 38.2 per cent of meat production, Haley says.
Tobin Schlegel, president of Ontario Goat, says they too will be going back to their farmers to seek direction. They also plan to talk to industry partners. “We know from input that producers support and want the organization; it’s a matter of getting to the heart of why the outcome was what it was.”
Ontario Goat is a non-profit organization representing meat, milk and fibre producers.
Schlegel says “this outcome reflects that the goat industry is a maturing and a rapidly changing industry.” In addition, the industry is made up of a very diverse group of goat farmers involved in meat, dairy and fibre production, each with unique needs.
“We’ve had a challenge to bring everyone together,” he says, noting that just establishing the one organization, Ontario Goat, to represent goat farmers without marketing board status has been an accomplishment in itself. “Trying to bring those diverse interests together is quite a challenge.”
Haley says they’re disappointed with the results in the goat vote. The Ontario Goat board “still feels that coming together is definitely the right thing to do.” But maybe the industry is still divided in its path forward.
The Ontario Goat organization will continue but “it may not continue to the same level as to what producers had become accustomed to in the past three years,” she says.
If the proposals had passed in both industries there would have been a mandatory check off fee to fund the organizations rather than the voluntary fee currently in place. Haley says for both the rabbit and goat organizations, holding another vote sometime in the future is still an option. BF