Here’s an excerpt from a recent story by Nelson Zandbergen in the Eastern Ontario AgriNews, brought to our attention by Bernie Bailey, who’s written about his experiences running one of the last small dairies in the province.
CHESTERVILLE — A Kafkaesque battle pitting Ontario’s supply-management bureaucracy against two retired North Dundas Township dairy farmers was replayed last month in front of the same quasi-judicial panel that originally upheld the couple’s claim for $114,500 they lost in a sudden quota policy change.
John and Susanna Cayer had successfully appealed a 15-per-cent clawback or “assessment” on the January 2007 sale of their provincial milk production quota, at the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Tribunal.
Siding with the Cayers in a March 2008 ruling, the three-person Tribunal had ordered the Dairy Farmers of Ontario — which abruptly imposed the assessment scheme in November 2006 — to reimburse them within 30 days.
At the time, Susanna Cayer said she wouldn’t be confident the ordeal was over until the cheque was in hand. She had good reason to be cautious. The DFO successfully sought a review of the decision, alleging that Tribunal member Denis Perrault was in a conflict of interest for not immediately disclosing his status as an active dairy farmer at the hearing. The Tribunal found the oversight to be unintentional but nullified the Cayer’s award and ordered their case reheard by three new panelists.
The do-over ran two days, on Oct. 31 and Feb. 2, in Ottawa.
“We should get a written decision in 30 days,” Cayer told The AgriNews after it was all over. “Now, we wait.”
Describing the whole situation as “very disappointing,” she added, “I will have a lot more to say later.”
She said the hearing took twice as long as the first go-round (two days instead of one) and “there was much more talk.”
Last time, the Tribunal found the Cayers’ case “cries out for compassion.” The couple proved to this original panel they were planning their exit from the dairy industry since 2006 — because of John Cayer’s health problems — before the DFO imposed the new quota sale rules without notice. John had been diagnosed eight years earlier with an intestinal condition called diverticulitis, then injured his tailbone three years later when he fell against a three-point hitch.
They wound up selling 31.9 kgs of quota at $29,600 per kg, with 25.8 kgs subject to the transfer assessment. However, the Cayers understood themselves to be eligible for a medical exemption that DFO chairman Bruce Saunders may have mentioned during a fall 2006 producer meeting at the Chesterville Legion.
A formal policy was not in place, though, and exactly what Saunders expressed verbally in Chesterville was explored at the latest Tribunal hearing, according to Susanna Cayer. Jackie Pemberton, who took notes at the Chesterville event, confirmed that she testified at the latest session.
She and the Cayers are among the founding members of a dissatisfied milk producer group, the Ontario Quota Rights Organization, which currently has its own separate complaint in front of the Tribunal. Hearings related to the OQRO case were held Feb. 3 and 4, with “possibly a full week” also slated around April 29, according to Cayer.
Meanwhile, three other Ontario producers who beat the DFO at the Tribunal last year continue to await the return of $800,000 in quota-sale holdbacks, as the DFO has opted to litigate the matter in actual court….”
Here’s what Bernie says about this case: “This is the way the Milk Board is going to kick the one thousand farmers they put out of business in favour of imported milk solids to make Canadian Cheese on behalf of the big milk; this looks a lot like my story.”