DRC president Whitney plans return to farmingA leader in the effort to bring PACA-like protections to Canadian produce shippers is retiring.

Stephen Whitney, president and chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., plans to step down Dec. 31.

Whitney has led the nonprofit DRC since its founding in 1999, and was instrumental in the organization’s creation.

Before DRC, Whitney was at the forefront of efforts to protect Canadian companies from unscrupulous business partners in his roles with the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council.

Beginning in 1982, Whitney was assistant executive vice president for both organizations, positions he held until his DRC tenure.

DRC president Whitney plans return to farming“I’ll be 62 at the end of this year — I didn’t think I’d retire before I was 65, but there are a number of things I’d like to do,” he said. “We’ve got a good team here in the office. It’s a time where I feel the organization is in good hands.”

Whitney plans to return to the job he held before becoming involved in produce industry organizations: a grower.

Whitney has purchased a grain and forage operation one hour north of Ottawa. Previously, he grew apples and raised dairy cows in Quebec.

Whitney said he was proud of the fact that he and others were able to bring government and industry together in the creation of the DRC.

While Whitney has not seen his wish of three decades fulfilled — the establishment of a Canadian version of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act — he is happy with progress made toward that goal.

“The jury’s out, because it’s not regulatory-based, but the industry got behind it and made it a success,” he said.

One of the major successes of the DRC has been its efficiency, Whitney said. The average dispute overseen by the organization is resolved in about six weeks.

Matt McInerney, DRC chairman and executive vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, said Whitney has overseen steady membership growth during his DRC tenure. The organization counts 1,350 members from 16 countries.

Whitney helped ensure disputes were resolved not only efficiently but at a reasonable price, and McInerney said Whitney will leave the DRC on a sound financial footing.

Whitney said the thing he will miss most in retirement is the relationships made in three decades in produce.

“It’s a great industry, and it’s still very much a people industry,” he said.