Trustee Walked into 'Tough Assignment' with Tomato Dispute

The dust has settled between Tomato growers and processors.

But that was after talks broke down earlier this month, forcing Ontario's Minister of Agriculture to dismiss the board and appoint a trustee to mediate.

Elmer Buchanan says he stepped into a tense situation.

"Negotiating the tomato contract is probably the hardest day I've ever put in and I've had some tough assignments. Partially because it was somewhat new to me. But we were negotiating with three major processors, so it takes a lot of fortitude and coordination to make this happen."

With both sides already deeply entrenched in their position, Buchanan says the first step was trying to repair damaged relations.

"I basically came to the table with a clean slate and urged all parties to respect each others positions and negotiate in good faith."

He says transparency was needed, and urged everyone to put their cards on the table.

"The growers and myself and each of the processors met individually and heard them out and we responded to their requests. But at the end of the day we made sure that all the growers were in the room and no decisions were made about one processor that wasn't available to the other processor."

Buchanan says he's looking forward to working with both growers and processors in the future.

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