By André Dumont
By André Dumont
I have always considered Canadian egg farmers like one big family. I would tell myself: a family sticks together and works together,” says Laurent Souligny. “I think I have been successful at making egg farmers from all provinces work together.”
Now 67, the “father” of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) family has just retired. Souligny held the chair for 11 years. On March 23, members elected Nova Scotia’s Peter Clarke as their new chairman.
Souligny farms in St-Isidore, in eastern Ontario. He started egg production in 1983. By 1987, he was representing his region at the board of Egg Farmers of Ontario. It was only the beginning of an involvement with producer associations that has become an example of dedication and leadership.
In 2000, Souligny became the chairman of the Canadian Egg Marketing Agency (CEMA). This name made it sound like a government agency and it certainly didn’t reflect its members, Souligny recalls. Among his numerous accomplishments, he is proud to have presided over the name change for Egg Farmers of Canada.
When Souligny became president, relations between provinces were tense. There were strong disagreements about new quota allocations.
After resolving the issue with Manitoba, Saskatchewan also stepped forward for a bigger share of above-the-base quota. Souligny was able to bring everyone to an agreement. “It used to be that talks for above-the-base allocations lasted two years. Now, we get it done in two hours.”
Souligny also imposed his leadership style on the way EFC lobbies the government.
“We never went to beg. We would inform the government and explain what’s happening in our industry. And while we were at it, we would get key messages through, like the importance of supporting supply management.”
This tactic earned Souligny his last great victory. Last March, federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced that compensations for layers to be eliminated by government order in the case of a pandemic would be raised to a maximum of $30 per bird. “This was the icing on the cake!” Souligny said in a phone interview with Canadian Poultry magazine.
Among other accomplishments, Souligny notes the purchase of an office building in Ottawa, together with Dairy Farmers of Canada and Canadian Hatching Egg Producers. Owning instead of renting is generating substantial savings for all organizations.
Souligny has only one regret: during his presidency, EFC wasn’t able to negotiate a new formula to determine the price paid by industrial users for transformation eggs. Currently, negotiations must take place every year, whereas the ideal formula would be used for four or five years. This would bring added stability to the industry.
Being away for meetings so often was made possible thanks to his son Jean’s involvement with the farm, and with help from wife Hélène and daughter Guylaine. The farm has grown to 25,000 layers and 1,300 acres. Jean has recently built a pullet farm with two other partners.
Today, Souligny is spending less time away in meetings and more time in St-Isidore. “I want a retirement,” he says. “But if I get interesting offers and I feel I can make a difference, I might not say no.” n