(July 19) In what produce industry leaders north of the border hope is the first step of many in the direction of reform, Canada’s Licensing and Arbitration Regulations were amended on July 12.

The amendments close a loophole that allowed small produce businesses with sales of less than $230,000 to operate without a license, said Ian MacKenzie, executive vice president of the Toronto-based Ontario Produce Marketing Association and manager of the Fresh Produce Alliance project of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa.

The amendment requires all dealers who negotiate the purchase or sale of agricultural products across international or provincial boundaries to have a federal produce license or be a member of the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp.

Previously, a 1988 amendment provided an exemption for certain growers, shippers and brokers, and that loophole was widened in 2002 because of a licensing challenge, according to a news release from the Fresh Produce Alliance.

“We’re starting to tighten (the regulations) down a little bit,” MacKenzie said July 12.

He said another project of the alliance looks at other licensing and arbitration regulations and exemption clauses that possibly have allowed unscrupulous produce dealers to operate in Canada.

He said the alliance hopes to have some possible new amendments to offer the Canadian Food Inspection Agency this fall for their legal staff to evaluate.

The group also would like more funding from the federal government to undertake an effort to extend the licensing requirement to intraprovincial trade. Currently, licensing and arbitration procedures apply only to inter-provincial (trade between provinces) and international trade.

MacKenzie said the work toward an intraprovincial provision in Canada’s Licensing and Arbitration Regulations would be a long one. Both provinces and the federal government must agree to pool their authority to create such a comprehensive licensing system, he said. That process may take three to five years, he said.