Chorney to retire from chief commissioner role at the Canadian Grain Commission

The chief commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission says he will retire at the end of April.

Doug Chorney informed staff at the CGC of his decision earlier this week.

Chorney, who also farms at East Selkirk, Man., has served as a commissioner at the CGC for the past seven years. He completed a three-year term as chief commissioner in December, and agreed to serve until the end of April to provide the federal government with more time to name a replacement.

“It’s been very enlightening to me as a producer. I thought I knew everything about grain. And it turns out, I didn’t know as much as I thought,” says Chorney, sitting down with RealAgriculture to reflect on his time at the CGC at the 2024 Crops Convention in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

“The biggest learning experience for me was meeting customers — people that buy grain from Canada every day and what they depend upon to feed their populations. We do that very well. I think Canada is a leader in the world in terms of assurances of quality, and the CGC plays a pivotal role in making sure that that is facilitated for exporters.”

He says policy highlights from his time at the CGC include taking initial steps to address the commission’s accumulated surplus by reducing fees, although any further steps in spending the surplus have been put on hold pending legislative changes to the Canada Grain Act.

“We’ve really worked hard during this time to use the authorities within the existing Act to modernize. We’ve updated final quality determination, which used to be known as ‘subject to inspectors grading and dockage’ to provide more flexibility there for producers. We feel that there’s a lot of value there to producers to use that instrument to settle disputes,” he says.

The rolling out of a country presence strategy to help ensure that quality assessments and grading are done properly has also been a success, says Chorney. “We’re just in the early days. And we’ve had good feedback from producers that were feeling that perhaps there could be improvements in that area.”

The CGC continues to play an important role in producer payment security, he adds.

“We’ve had the three biggest failures in the history of Canada over the past five years. And I’m really pleased that we were able to almost pay all of the farmers that were affected. It was 100% in two cases and 80% of farmers in the second third case. So there were 449 farmers who received in excess of $24 million in payment for grains that they would have not been paid for had we not been in place,” says Chorney.

Looking ahead, he says the Canadian industry is well-positioned as export customers seek more information about the crops they’re purchasing from Canada.

“We’re not shipping bulk commodities, we’re shipping ingredients for food and processing. And markets are seemingly more interested in knowing more about that. I think we have a good story to tell in Canada,” he says.

After seven years working at the CGC and four years as the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers prior to that, Chorney says he plans to spend more time on the farm and not worrying about making it to meetings this summer.

As for who will be the next chief commissioner, the federal government held an intake for applications for the role in the spring of 2023. The four-month extension to Chorney’s appointment was to provide the federal government with more time to complete “the open, transparent, and merit-based selection process that was launched earlier in 2023,” according to a CGC spokesperson, but there has been no public announcement.

In 2016-17, during Lawrence MacAulay’s first stint as agriculture minister, all three leadership positions at the CGC (chief commissioner, assistant chief commissioner, and commissioner) at the CGC were left unfilled for over two months when the terms of commissioners appointed by the previous Conservative government expired.

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