In June of this year, Michael Hoffort will end his 34-year career with Farm Credit Canada (FCC), having spent the last eight years as president and chief executive officer.
Hoffort joined FCC in the late ’80s, a decade that was known to be particularly difficult for the farming sector, marked by sky-high interest rates, poor crop prices, and drought.
“As I joined FCC, I didn’t know how serious it was,” says Hoffort, referring to the landscape of agriculture and lending in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
FCC, too, faced significant challenges and was essentially bankrupt when he came on board. The hard times required the organization regroup and completely overhaul its structure. Over the next three decades, Hoffort played a role in the rebranding and diversification of FCC, taking them from the last-resort lender, to one that is proactive, empathetic and trusted among numerous Canadian producers.
“There was actually a public policy at the time in the late ’80s, where FCC being the ‘lender of last resort’ was our direction,” shared Hoffort, “You had to come in literally with a letter from [another lender], saying you weren’t able to get financing and so then FCC could do it”.
Since that time, Hoffort explained the intentional pivot the company has done to respond to what it is the producer needs, predict future challenges and also, get to know the unique needs for each agriculture sector across Canada.
With being a key driver within the agricultural economy, FCC has made other shifts to provide support from a non-financial standpoint in the way of succession planning and, more recently, advocating for mental health in the sector.
One topic of interest among many is the price of land which has seemingly not slowed down over the recent past. Hoffort shared that although we could see a slowdown, or slight levelling out of land prices, based off of supply and demand alone, he isn’t worried that we are going to see a land “bubble” burst.
In his preparation for his departure, Hoffort was asked if he had any words of encouragement or advice for the new CEO.
“I would really encourage them to literally get in their truck, or in an airplane, and go out and meet the Canadian agriculture and food industry from coast to coast, including our employees. What they’ll find is a very diverse, committed, successful and thoughtful sector, that you can’t help but fall in love with and better understand what their needs are and how you can fulfill them.”