Province boots Ontario farmers from tomato pricing talks

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Ontario tomato farmers angry over 'horrible' pricing deal

Ontario farmers — in charge of negotiating prices for this year's multi-million dollar tomato crop — have been fired by the provincial government as a former politician takes over negotiations.

Elected officials of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Board, the group that negotiates the price of various crops with the people who process them, were all removed from their positions Friday morning.

Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal says he made the move because talks between growers and producers have come to an impasse, putting this year's tomato crop at risk. As a result, thousand of processing jobs were at stake, Leal said in a news release, prompting the minister to appoint a trustee to take over negotiations.

The decision does not bode well for farmers, explained Tom Keller, the vice chairperson and one of the farmers removed from the growers board.

"They've chosen the processor's view of the world and … for the farmer, that's going to make it difficult for us," he told CBC News.

Leal appointed Elmer Buchanan to take over the board. Buchanan, a farmer and former minister of agriculture, temporarily takes over the board to negotiate 2017 contracts. He will serve until elections are held prior to the end of the year.

"Risking this year's tomato crop and the thousands of jobs that support it, is something I am not prepared to do," Leal said of his decision.

The tomato industry makes up half of the $89 million in all farming sales, according to the province. 

Some crop pricing has been established with agreements for onions, green peas and sweet corn already settled. All unsettled agreements will now be negotiated by Buchanan, according to Keller.