Thursday 17 September 2009

Canadian agriculture is completely screwed up, volume XVII [updated]

In Manitoba, it is illegal to sell potatoes from your small garden plot at farmers' markets. Because the selling of potatoes is a monopoly awarded to Peak of the Market. And Peak of the Market will fine you $10,000 if you try it. So writes my sister at the blog for her local produce market in Winnipeg.
We were supposed to receive 2 more deliveries of those beautiful small new crop potatoes this week. That was before Peak of the Market served my farmer, and dozens like him in the province with cease and desist orders. The farmers ignored the papers served to them at first. Then Peak of the Market lawyers showed up at their doors with fines in the amount of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS each, unless they destroyed their potato crops. Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money so my potato farmer, and his colleagues either destroyed their fields by tilling them up, or harvesting the remainder of the crop, delivering it to food banks around Manitoba.

So right you you are probably wondering what the FRICK is going on!! I'll bet that you all thought that Peak of the Market supported small Manitoba farmers, that is what is implied in their TV commercials. Here's the scoop.

Peak of the Market legally controls potato production in Manitoba. Until this year, farmers who did not grow potatoes for Peak of the Market were allowed to grow 4 acres of potatoes to sell on their own. This year Peak of the Market changed the rules as of July 15th. Now farmers are not allowed to grow potatoes to sell unless they have a Peak of the Market quota and sell only to Peak of the Market. This includes small gardeners who wish to sell at farmers markets, as well as farmers who wish to sell to independent grocery stores like mine. It is now illegal to grow and sell your own potatoes in Manitoba. Peak of the Market has the legal authority to fine farmers who break these rules, and the fines are high.

Because I still want to purchase potatoes from local small independant farmers, I will no longer be posting where our potatoes come from, and I will be telling neither my staff nor my customers the names of the farmers who produce them. This is to protect these growers from Peak of the Market legal action.
Ecraser l'infâme! Awesome stuff, Erin. Of course, go to her blog to read the whole thing.

From Agriculture Manitoba:
The marketing of all potatoes produced in Manitoba is regulated under The Manitoba Vegetable Producers’ Marketing Plan, Regulation #247/87. This regulation authorizes Peak of the Market to pass certain orders and regulations controlling the marketing of potatoes produced in the province of Manitoba. Potatoes grown under a preplant contract with a specific processor for processing crop processing on their premises are exempt from these regulations and orders. However, marketing in excess of the contracted volumes for processing (surplus) does fall under the regulations and orders of Peak of the Market. At the present time, Peak of the Market has entered into an agreement giving the processing associations (Keystone Vegetable Growers Association and the Chipping Growers Association of Manitoba the authority to act as Peak of the Market’s agent to sell surplus potatoes destined for the processing market only.

Peak of the Market is a non-profit corporation under the direction of nine members elected by registered producers. Five members are potato producers, one is a member at large and three are root crop producers. Peak of the Market operates as a central selling desk, with growers delivering produce based on a quota and delivery system. Peak of the Market also sells non quota and surplus quota potatoes on a direct price basis to markets outside the quota market area.

Peak of the Market also regulates the packaging of potatoes, with packaging being carried out by Peak of the Market and Stella Produce (1981) Ltd.
For those really keen, the Farm Products Marketing Act Manitoba Vegetable Producers Marketing Plan Regulation 117/2009 which authorizes Peak of the Market to levy fines (see section 22).

Would Wonko the Sane have set up the Asylum earlier if he'd seen Regulation 117/2009 before reading the instructions on the packet of toothpicks?

Update Aaron, in the comments at Erin's blog, provides some great context.
Basically, Peak of the Market sells and administers "quotas" for table potatoes within Manitoba. When this board was created 30ish years ago quotas were fairly cheap, but now they have become very pricey, and it prevents most farmers from selling their potatoes as table potatoes. Apparently the board is suppossed to be "elected", but only those that already HAVE quotas can vote. This basically stifles any kind of opposition. Besides, removal of the board could only happen if over %75 of the 5-9 person board voted to abolish the organization....
Again, read the whole thing.

Update 2 CTV news reports here.

Update 3 Aaron, above, retracts his comment. Either the comment was true and the farmers he quoted were getting in trouble for it, or he was trying to jerk folks around. The tone of the comment surely didn't sound like the latter explanation holds.

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