The new president of the Kent Federation of Agriculture says he wants to continue focusing on issues important to the previous administration while also improving communications.
Jay Cunningham is taking over the position from Ron Faubert, who has been in the role since 2015.
A Kent Federation of Agriculture member nominated Faubert again, but he said it was time for him to step down. Cunningham was the only other person put forward for nomination.
Cunningham said his first priority is to continue the “excellent work” the federation has done on municipal issues, such as infrastructure and building permits.
“They’ve spent a lot of time and effort on that and that warrants a lot of continued support,” he said.
The Kent Federation of Agriculture is now at a point where it can gather “good, concrete data” to present to Chatham-Kent council for their decisions, he said.
“We need to get that information in front of council so that they can make an informed decision and not be skewed by whatever might otherwise impact them and then they can make the logical decision in an effort to get a better product at a more cost-effective rate,” said Cunningham.
As well, Cunningham said the Kent Federation of Agriculture doesn’t need better communications, but it needs more communication, including on social media.
Another priority, he said, is making sure “everyone who is a (federation) member knows what the (federation) is all about and what we do.”
“We had a number of events last year, which were member focused, and I would like to continue that stream,” he said.
Cunningham is a sixth-generation farmer who produces winter wheat, corn, soybeans and garlic on the farm near Kent Bridge.
He graduated from the University of Guelph in 1987 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, majoring is agricultural economics, which led to a career in agricultural banking.
He was first with TD Bank for nine years and then Scotiabank for 21 years, and he continued to farm during this time.
Cunningham is still active with organizations such as the Ontario Institute of Agrologists/Southwest Ag. Professionals, the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors, the Arnold Cemetery board of trustees and Family Council at Meadow Park Nursing Home.
He also became a county delegate with the Grain Farmers of Ontario in 2016 and joined the KFA board of directors in 2017. He was elected as a vice president in early 2019 and also assumed the new position of board treasurer.
Cunningham said he recognizes it will be a challenge to replace Faubert.
“He did a lot in his time as president and it’s a daunting task to try and fill his shoes,” he said. “I encourage anybody who isn’t already involved in the federation because we represent the majority of the active producers, to get out and know more about us and to participate and tell us what we need.”