Neonics, public outreach, and working together: Barry Senft on his retirement from GFO


When the corn, soybean, and wheat growers of Ontario chose to join forces over a decade ago, they named a Westerner, Barry Senft, as their CEO. Since then, Senft has led the newly-formed Grain Farmers of Ontario through collaboration, the addition of two other commodity groups, restrictive regulations, and a big push for public outreach.

It’s time, though, he says, to move on. As of April, 2020, Senft will step down as CEO and move on to something else, though it won’t yet be returning to the family farm in Saskatchewan.

Senft joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to talk about Senft’s time with Grain Farmers of Ontario, his greatest accomplishments, the major challenges, and what’s next for him.

In reflecting back to making the amalgamation of three commodity groups happen, Senft says it was wise of the groups to hire an outsider, someone without a bias to any of the legacy organizations. He took everything as it was, he says, which helped to make decisions that were best for all involved.

Senft is proud of his record on moving grain and farming communications outward, to the public, through programs like Good in Every Grain, and the interactive trailers that have graced local fairs, Parliament Hill on Canada Day, and even downtown Toronto. One of the biggest challenges, of course, came on the government relations side, when Kathleen Wynne’s government “burdened farmers with one of the most restrictive regulations that has ever faced Canadian farmers.”

In the 11 years since Grain Farmers of Ontario came to be, no other provinces have followed suit, though Manitoba may be closest. Senft says we may see that change, as working together adds “horsepower” to lobbying efforts, research, and value for check-off dollars.

Listen below to the full conversation:

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