Cigi names three farmers to board

Three Prairie farmers have been appointed to the Canadian International Grains Institute’s six-member board, just one of many changes to the institute in the wake of the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s wheat and barley sales monopoly Aug. 1.

Cigi, which teaches customers how to use Canadian crops, was founded in 1972 by the CWB and federal government. Until April, Cigi relied on the CWB for much of its funding. That money will now come through a refundable farmer checkoff on the sale of wheat (15 cents a tonne) and barley (three cents a tonne).

The federal government will also continue to fund Cigi.

Under the previous structure Cigi had six directors: two from the CWB, one from the Canadian Grain Commission, one from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and two at large.

With the CWB as a single-desk seller and major Cigi funder, it made sense for it to be represented on Cigi’s board, but now it will be neither. That’s why Cigi sought farmers to sit on its board, Cigi executive director Earl Geddes said in an interview June 20.

“Farmers will be funding us directly now, so we felt it was necessary to get more direct farmer involvement in what we do,” he said.

Farm groups, the CWB and current board of directors came up with a list of names to be considered, Geddes said.

“We had three meetings to discuss the candidates,” he said. “It was a lot of work.”

The new directors are LeRon Torrie of Grassy Lake, Alta., Randy Johner of Midale, Sask. and Jim Wilson of Darlingford, Man.

Torrie grows wheat, durum, peas and hybrid canola seed on his 3,000-acre farm. His three sons are currently taking over the operation. He has served on the board of the St. Mary River Irrigation District, the largest irrigation district in Canada, for 12 years and is currently chairman.

Johner farms almost 25,000 acres and grows peas, lentils, chickpeas, flax, canola, canaryseed, wheat and durum. He has tested new equipment for companies such as Bourgault and Degelman and served on committees with John Deere to develop new equipment.

Wilson and his wife Norleen operate a grain farm and a pedigreed seed plant where they produce, process and market cereals, oilseeds and pulse crops. He is also a chartered accountant and sits on the SeCan and Canterra Seeds boards.

Wilson also previously served as a director and chair of Agricore United, chair of the Canada Grains Council and a board member with the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Cereal Grains Value Chain Roundtable, and the National Safety Nets Advisory Committee.

The three new directors join Cigi board members Murdoch Mackay, a commissioner with the Canadian Grain Commission, Susie Miller of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Henry Van Ankum, a farmer from Ontario.

Longtime Cigi director Ward Weisensel has been asked to act in advisory role to ensure a smooth transition, Geddes said.

Cigi’s governance, set out in an agreement between the CWB and federal government, remains in place. Geddes said he expects eventually farmer-run wheat or cereal councils will be set up in each Prairie province, with funding and overseeing Cigi as part of their mandates.

Cigi officials, including Geddes, met with Cigi-farmer alumni recently during Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina, to get feedback on what Cigi’s priorities should be.

Cigi has also surveyed farmers for their ideas, Geddes said; the poll revealed many farmers don’t know much about Cigi, he said.

— Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man. A version of this article appeared in the June 18, 2012 issue.

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Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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