CANADA: Enforcement is important
Lack of enforcement has been a huge problem with the regulations and standards that ought to apply in Canadian agriculture.
In the beef-packing industry, many of the companies with the highest standards for integrity, quality and compliance with government regulations were pressured out of business.
I watched as companies with less integrity and a track record of violations managed to survive. The largest one in Ontario at the time even survived a conviction for fraud.
The same could be said for many other agricultural sectors where federal, provincial and municipal standards were broken, flouted and ignored. In some cases, such as the fertilizer industry, the federal government simply gave up trying to enforce a standard of quality and value across the board.
All of which brings me to the current situation in Europe where several animal-welfare bans are due to take effect. The first, this coming Jan. 1, is a ban on caging egg-laying hens. The next two, to come into effect Jan. 1, 2013, are bans on castrating pigs and confining pregnant sows in stalls.
European farmers are openly questioning whether the lower-income countries, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, will try to enforce the new standards. And, if not, they rightly complain that those who are forced to comply will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Rules are, in fact, worse than nothing if they are not enforced. At least with nothing, there is fair competition. With rules that are not enforced, it's the honest businesses that lose.
This is what's at the heart of the lawsuits that Sweda Farms Ltd. has filed against the dominant egg-grading companies and the Ontario egg marketing board.
At least now that the chicken manure has hit the fan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has told its staff to stop providing advance notice to when they's going to show up to conduct an audit.