Readers Chime In, Informa Numbers, and the Challenge Ahead

This past week saw our commodity markets continue to boil.  It would seem the ethanol gold rush mused about in these pages so much may actually be happening.  Wheat futures in fact reached a ten year high.

Informa also released their latest crop production estimates last week.  They are pegging corn to come in at 11.151 billion bushels, up for USDA’s estimate of 11.114 billion bushels in September.  They are boosting yield to 155.2 bushels/acre up from the USDA’s number of 154.7.

Soybeans were measured at 3.206 billion bushels up again from the September report (3.093 billion bushels). The soybean yield was hiked marginally to 57.4 bushels/acre.

Those are big numbers from Informa.  Yes, the commodity markets have been peppy lately.  However some of that movement is from large speculative funds.  At the end of the day we’ve got a huge crop coming out of the field.  Canadian cash prices while much higher than a mere few weeks ago, are still signifigantly below the cost of production.

It has been a very frustrating journey.  In Ontario, it has grown even more frustrating because a good crop in the field is just that.  With wet weather and torrential rain beating down on the province over the last few days, harvest is at least two weeks delayed.  Those high wheat prices aren’t going to do us any good if we cannot get a crop planted.

So what to do?  That question came to my mind last week when I heard from a friend near Ottawa.  He had been heavily involved with bringing me to Ottawa last year to speak at the farm rally in front of the Sir John Carling Building on February 20th and the subsequent Solidarity rally on April 5th.  In short he told me there was going to be a combine-tractor-farm rolling protest this past Thursday on the 401, from Ingersoll through Toronto to Prince Edward County on the shores of Lake Ontario.

It was subsequently cancelled as the police warned people about heavy fines and who knows what else.  However the intention was to continue to show the need for some semblance of a consistent long-term agricultural safety for Canadian farmers.  It may serve as a harbinger of things to come.

Canadian farmers even after everything that has happened are still looking to the decrepit CAIS program.  Last week I learned even more about CAIS from correspondence from some of my readers.  Several articles were sent to me written by Barry Wilson regarding internal Agriculture Canada memos regarding CAIS, which were dug up by an Ottawa.

It was quite revealing.  If you contact me I’ll pass them along.  In one particular memo Agriculture Canada says CAIS entitlements (payments) are deliberately designed to ignore support foreign government distribute to their farmers.  That fact is answered by one of my readers who writes, Hmmmm…. Why are those crops so profitable for other countries?  Could Ag Canada please let us in on those emerging opportunities?

Clearly he was very frustrated.  However shortly after that I received another piece of correspondence from another reader who offered a bit of a different viewpoint.  He writes the following.

I pass this little story along as proof that the time has come.  A farmer calls me to say that his 16 year struggle with becoming the best that he can be is at an end.  He has tried to do everything right.  Tried to make direct seeding work because that was environmentally beneficial and was supposed to be efficient and it’s what farmers needed to do to ensure that the land was productive and available for future generations.

So it comes to the evening when he is laying in the mud under his strip till unit changing coulters again – knowing that as he does, his costs are now in excess of his conventional tillage neighbour.

Knowing that it is not safe to be under the unit and knowing his wife is angry because they are supposed to be getting ready for a night out.  Rain is starting to fall, along with grease and mud; and a yellow Hummer with black trim drives into his yard – driven by a woman who used to be a man.  The driver dismounts and carries a small bag of prescription drugs into the house.  My friend starts to think – A Hummer.  It was a Hummer delivering one package of prescriptions to my door.  A Hummer driven by a woman – who I know darn well used to be a man!   This doesn’t make sense.  I’ve had it!  I’m tired of trying to do everything right – No one else gives a hoot why should I?

So my friend today – does what is right for him. Does not do something for nothing. Still raises corn, beans and wheat along with shitake mushrooms but he does it his way – and only if he knows there is something left over for him.

Our industry needs to have the same epiphany that he did. (Salford, Ontario Agridome reader)

The government comments I’ll leave out.  If you read last week’s column you know I offered glimmers of hope.  I do believe that.  However the numbers from Informa, the memos from Agriculture Canada and to some extent the Salford reader offer a different perspective.  The challenge for all the rest of us is to focus and keep working.  The Farmers Feed Cities campaign is a winnable cause.  As frustrating as it gets sometimes in this business going ahead is much better than looking behind.