Eugene Whelan, a colourful, outspoken, strong and determined advocate for Canada’s farmers leaves an indelible mark on Canadian agriculture. This Officer of the Order of Canada, member of the Senate of Canada, former Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and president of the World Food Council started his political career in Essex County, Ontario, before moving to federal politics. Locally he served on the school board and both the Anderdon Township council and the Essex County council.
Throughout his political career Mr. Whelan was a tireless crusader and supporter of marketing boards and supply management, a system that produced to domestic requirements, with producer returns based on a cost-of-production formula. During his 10 years as federal Minister of Agriculture he proclaimed national supply management agencies for eggs, chicken and turkeys, in addition to the Canadian Dairy Commission.
For those commodities not under supply management, he fought hard to maintain a level playing field in world markets at a time of heavy subsidization in other countries. He was successful in getting the Canadian government to increase its support for farmers.
While he was Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Whelan raised loan limits for the Farm Credit Corporation to assist beginning farmers, created a new crop development fund and introduced the Advance Payments for Crops Act to guarantee loans to producers requiring advance payments for perishable crops. He opened markets in the Soviet Union for Canadian wheat and established legislation to protect fruit and vegetable growers from processor bankruptcies.
Mr. Whelan was a strong advocate of farmers in less developed countries. As Canadian ambassador to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, he led Canadian delegations to FAO conferences and signed Memoranda of Understanding on agriculture co-operation with the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. He positioned Canada as a leader in world agriculture.
Locally Mr. Whelan served as warden of Essex County, was a director and president of the Harrow Farmers' Co-operative, served on the board of United Co-operatives of Ontario and was a founding member of the Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Hon. Eugene Whelan has earned his place in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame