Doug Chorney’s term as Keystone Agricultural Producers president comes to an end this week. Chorney, who farms near East Selkirk, Man., has led the Manitoba farm lobby group since 2011. Over the last four years, Chorney has frequently appeared in the national media and at meetings in Ottawa, representing the views of prairie farmers on grain transportation, flooding, labour shortages and support programs for the industry.
Chorney recently spoke to Western Producer reporter Robert Arnason about his time as KAP president.
Q: What surprised you about the job?
A: It did surprise me the amount of time the role requires…. And a lot of that is with the media…. It seems like we’ve had a plethora of very challenging issues the last four years and it’s been my role to be a voice for our membership…. At the busiest periods, I was going to Ottawa every month with the exception of the (harvest season).
Q: What issue or event stood out during your term as KAP president?
A: I would point to the Canadian Wheat Board as being a real challenging issue and one that consumed a tremendous amount of time…. A lot of our membership was really polarized. There were few people with no opinion on this subject, and it was very difficult for us to represent all those interests at the same time.
After it became a reality (following) the May 2011 federal election when the federal government said this was happening … a lot of dominoes started to fall and we’re still dealing with things like the Canadian Grain Commission, CIGI (Canadian International Grains Institute) … and rail transportation. There just seemed to be so many links to the CWB that had to be dealt with. Compounding that, we also had a record crop in 2013.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing Canadian agriculture during the next five years?
A: No doubt about it, BRM (business risk management) tools to deal with extreme weather events. We heard (Manitoba agriculture) minister (Ron Kostyshyn) talk about it … There has been unprecedented weather challenges for Manitoba farmers and prairie farmers these last few years. They’re getting to be more frequent than they’ve ever been. I’m hearing from our members … they cannot survive this on their own without any support. Crop insurance is not meeting their needs when they go through multi-year events. They need to have tools to manage this kind of risk.
Q: The outgoing KAP president traditionally backs away from the organization. How will you stay involved in agricultural policy?
A: I’m still very engaged in the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. I’m on the advisory council for workplace health and safety for the minister of labour…. Labour issues are a huge challenge for farmers. We just don’t have the capacity we used to in rural communities, of retired people or neighbours’ kids to help you.
Q: What was the most satisfying aspect of the job?
A: Being involved in a farm group that’s really grassroots-driven and the amount of commitment we have from our membership, volunteers and right up to our management team. People … are really busy and don’t necessarily have the time to do the things we ask them to do, but they make the time to do it…. Without that behind you, it would be very difficult to keep your focus.