Forest Products Commission postpones woodlot hearing

New Brunswick's Forest Products Commission has put off a two-day hearing that is key to the regulatory authority of the province's woodlot marketing boards.

The appeal to the commission was launched by JD Irving Limited, AV Group, W & R Gillespie Ltd, and several forestry contractors after the Southern New Brunswick Forest Products Marketing Board tried to assert its regulatory authority under the Natural Products Act over wood sales in its provincially designated territory.

SNB's January 2016 order declared that wood from private woodlots can only be sold to the marketing board, and wood purchasers can only buy from the board.

In 2012 JD Irving stopped negotiating contracts with the SNB Board.

The company has been contracting directly with woodlot owners and producers.

The cheques go through SNB allowing the marketing board to collect levies but giving it no say in the negotiations.

The Fredericton hearing was to begin this morning.

SNB Board Chair John Sabine says his group was hoping to get through the hearing process as soon as possible.

He says JDI's practices are unfair to many woodlot owners.

"95 percent of our membership cannot ship to JDI under any price or any condition, we've just been shut off totally," said Sabine.

"They've just decided that's what they're doing."

New Brunswick mills, full

Sabine said mills in New Brunswick are now full because the province has allowed more crown wood to be harvested under its 2014 crown forestry deal.

In a statement JDI vice-president, Mary Keith said the company restricted "gatewood" deliveries for sellers without contracts in mid-January, "when it became clear that overall inventory levels would be too high."

The statement says JDI is forecasting it will purchase 14 per cent more product "from SNB" this season, and 30 per cent more from all boards combined.

Keith said the company plans to add additional shifts, or extra hours at mills in Grand Lake, Saint Leonard and Sussex to consume the additional volume.

JDI has not contracted the purchase of wood from the SNB board directly since 2012.

JDI and AV group have launched a parallel court action against the SNB Marketing Board and the SNB Cooperative challenging the groups' authority to issue the order over wood sales.

On Friday, SNB lawyers filed a motion requesting leave to appeal the Jan. 21 decision of Justice William Grant that allowed the legal challenge by the two companies to go ahead.

In a separate statement, Keith made clear the appeal by SNB is tied to the commission's decision to adjourn the hearing.

"Last week, the SNB Board and SNB Co-op filed a notice of motion seeking leave to appeal Justice Grant's decision. As a result, JDI sought an adjournment of the appeal before the New Brunswick Forest Products Commission," said Keith.