The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) has a new chief and assistant chief commissioner.
Doug Chorney, the CGC’s acting chief commissioner, has been promoted to chief and Patty Rosher, general manager of the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) since March 2019, is the new assistant chief commissioner.
Both appointments were announced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in a news release Dec. 21, 2020.
Chorney and Rosher’s appointments are for a three and four year term, respectively.
Chorney, who has been acting chief since June when former chief commissioner Patty Miller retired, was appointed assistant chief commissioner in February 2017 along with commissioner Ogema, Sask., farmer Lonny McKague.
“I am very humbled that I have the opportunity to lead this organization with my fellow commissioners,” Chorney said in an interview Dec. 21. “I take the responsibility very seriously. This is something I feel very well prepared for. I believe I can make a contribution and support the organization through some of the challenges we may be facing in the future.”
Why it matters: The Canadian Grain Commission plays an integral role in Canada’s multi-billion dollar grain industry regulating the grain trade, overseeing grain quality, settling grading disputes between grain buyers and farmers and administering a payment security program, all under the authority of the Canada Grain Act.
Although appointed, prospective commissioners have to apply for the positions.
Chorney has a degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Manitoba, lives on a farm near East Selkirk, Man.
Rosher, who grew up on an Eatonia, Sask. farm, holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Saskatchewan and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Manitoba.
One wag posted on Facebook the CGC will be changing its initials to KCG — KAP Grain Commission. Besides Rosher being KAP’s general manager until her appointment, Chorney was an active member of the general farm organization, including serving four years as president from 2011 to 2015.
Chorney served on many other boards, including the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s the Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, the Manitoba Employers Council, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
Chorney has has been a member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba since 1989.
Before joining KAP almost two years ago Rosher worked for Manitoba Agriculture where she held many leadership positions including Acting Chief Operating Officer of the Food Development Centre, Director of Transformation, Director of Policy, and Director of Boards, Commissions, and Legislation.
Rosher worked for the Canadian Wheat Board from 1994 until 2012. She started in communications and worked in policy, market development, operations with rail logistics and sales.
“That’s when I started the organic cash trading program and then WeatherFarm,” Rosher said in an interview Dec. 21.
“I just had great opportunities. I got to do super exciting things with such smart people.”
The CGC is a federal government agency that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Agriculture.The three commissioners are the CGC ‘s executive, setting the CGC’s direction, establishing policy and administering and enforcing the Canada Grain Act.
The commissioners also have quasi-judicial powers on some matters.
While ideally those chosen will have the right experience and aptitude, a commissioner learns a lot on the job. Few people have a working knowledge of the Canada Grain Act, or understand wheat chemistry.
The tradition is to appoint commissioners from the three Prairie Provinces — usually a mix of farmers and those from the agricultural industry giving the CGC greater insight to the needs of producers and the rest of the value chain.
In addition to conducting regular CGC business, the commissioners will oversee the CGC’s participation in the federal government’s review of the Canada Grain Act and the CGC itself.
The review, led by Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC), began in March 2019, but has been delayed by the COVD-19 pandemic.
The CGC’s quality assurance role will be examined. So will CGC governance — something that has come up in previous reviews.
Grain companies want the grain act amended to end mandatory CGC outward inspection and grading, replacing it with the option to use private inspectors overseen by the CGC.
But some farm groups worry that could weaken quality control and ultimately Canada’s reputation for exporting high quality grain.
Moreover, most of the CGC’s operating revenue comes from charging a fee on outward inspection.
Some farm groups want major changes to the CGC’s grading system, while others want tweaks.
Some have also complained about changes to the CGC’s wheat classification system that saw some popular varieties in the premium priced Canada Western Red Spring class, moved to classes that pay less.
It’s unclear if the review will see a change in CGC’s mandate to operate “in the interests of producers,” — something previous governments have contemplated.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) insists it remain. Protecting farmers was why the CGC was founded in 1912 after years of farmer complaints of unfair treatment by the grain trade.
Concerns about how the CGC uses surplus funds earned from a combination of higher user fees and increased grain production, mostly collected from grain companies but ultimately paid for by farmers, is also likely to be raised during the review.
The CGC had a $137.3 million surplus as of March 31, 2020 and is expecting an additional $9 million more by March 31, 2021.
The CGC, with annual expenditures of around $65 million, says it needs at least $40 million in reserve to cover potential revenue shortfalls caused by a drop in Canadian grain production and/or exports.
The CGC has rejected calls to repay the surplus saying regulations don’t allow it.
Starting in 2018 the CGC said it would spend $4 million of the surplus over five years to provide free falling number and DON (deoxynivalenol) results in wheat samples submitted to the CGC’s annual harvest sample program.
“I know from engaging with stakeholders there are a lot of opinions on the way the Canadian Grain Commission serves the industry,” Chorney said. “We know there is a commitment from our government to look at modernizing the Canada Grain Act. I am certainly in agreement that there are many things that we can do to better reflect the needs of the sector in the future. I would genuinely listen very closely to all of this input from stake holders to guide that process and I look forward to engaging in the future when it re-starts. As we know it’s AAFC that is running the CGA (Canada Grain Act) review, but I certainly would lend my support to that process any way I could.”
In the meantime the CGC seeks ways to do better, Chorney said. He and McKague just wrapped up annual consultation with grain companies and farm groups, Chorney said.
“We are going to continue to do that (consult),” he said. “And we’re looking to show them that we are listening and also doing things like the grain grading modernization, class modernization is going to be completed this year. We have the last five varieties moving out of CWRS to CNHR (Canada Northern Hard Red) — that’s completed. And we’re looking at more automated solutions for stakeholders to interact with us.”
As assistant chief commissioner Chorney said he closely followed issues concerning the CGC’s farmer payment protection program, especially in the wake of several recent cases where licensed grain companies failed to pay farmers for their grain resulting in the CGC accessing security posted by the companies to reimburse eligible farmers.
“The need for safeguards for farmers and to protect farmers and get paid is very significant,” Chorney said. “That’s an area I focused on as an assistant chief commissioner and I continue to have an interest in ensuring we protect farmers.
“Some things can be done within the present act in its current form and other changes would require the act to be changed if it’s more substantive. I’m looking at all options.”
Currently CGC licensed grain elevators are obliged to post security for grain they haven’t paid farmers for. The CGC monitors those liabilities but sometimes liabilities exceed companies’ security.
Over the years other options have been discussed. Several years ago the CGC worked on implementing an insurance model but changed its mind.
There has also been talk of establishing a farmer compensation fund — a model used in Ontario to protect farmers from buyers who fail to pay for grain.
Praise for CGC staff during pandemic
Hope is a powerful state of mind, important now as ever.
That’s the message Doug Chorney delivered to Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) staff in a speech Dec. 17.
At the time he was the CGC’s acting chief commissioner; Dec. 21 he was appointed chief.
“In 1903 my grandfather came to Canada from Poland as a new Canadian with his biggest asset being hope for the future,” Chorney said in an address praising CGC employees for their efforts in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Soon after arriving he found work and began building a life in Canada. It wasn’t easy as he faced many barriers. Racism was alive and well for new Canadians trying to fit in. But they pressed on. Then in the winter of 1918 the pandemic called the Spanish flu hit his family hard. The history record says my grandfather was in coma for six weeks.”
A prominent English family provided Chorney’s grandfather’s family with a nurse, food and firewood.
“My father, who would have been three years old at the time, survived, as did the entire family,” Chorney said. “Our family experienced the kindness of neighbours.
“Here we are in 2020 facing yet another pandemic and we are still finding racism in our society. “While this is tragic on many levels, I continue to have the same hope for a better future.
“We have all made sacrifices during this global pandemic, but not many segments of the Canadian economy can claim to have surpassed the previous years performance,” Chorney told CGC staff. “However, we can and it is because we have worked hard with industry and farmers to deliver results. This took hard work, but also a great deal of self-discipline in your daily lives.
“We all have unique circumstances that make those we love vulnerable. I know we all do our best to manage that risk.
“I just want to thank you for the effort everyone has exhibited during this time. And please know the commissioners put your health and safety above anything else at all times.”
The racism Chorney’s grandfather faced was common as Canada was largely populated by those of Anglo-Saxon descent. Early in the 20th century most Canadians considered themselves British. On every school map Canada was coloured red with the rest of the British empire.
And chauvinism remained pervasive late into the last century.
“I never learned to speak Polish or Ukrainian — my dad spoke both — because of the fear that we would have a broken english accent,” Chorney said in an interview Dec. 21. “At the time anyone in a workplace environment with that they would call you a ‘DP’ (displaced person) and you would never be promoted to be a foreman. At the rolling mill in Selkirk they said you would never be promoted to be a ‘white hat’ (management) with a Ukrainian background. It was so bad some people changed their names. It was anglicized.”