Spring Is Here, It Just Doesn’t Feel Like It Yet

Wheat Spring 2013     Budget day is always a big day for political watchers.  It used to be there were all kinds of budget secrecy when it came to our federal government releasing their financial plans.  Is changed over the years, as now most governments like to leak out their plans, gauging the political reaction and maybe making some last-minute changes.  Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released the budget this past Thursday afternoon.  At the present time most of us are trying to figure out what it means.

The Conservative government has been wrestling with a federal deficit since the financial meltdown in 2008.  They have great plans to make that disappear by 2015, which just so happens to be when we expect the next general election.  At this early stage it looks like there has been a change in the lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers, with some indexing toward inflation.  However, it is easily going to take a week to digest the exact changes that the federal budget has for agriculture.  From what I can see now, it looks to be minor; the government surely doesn’t see a problem with agriculture especially after last year’s higher grain prices.

Much of the key points within the budget depend on the federal deficit being eliminated in 2015.  At that time with an election looming there are a series of middle-class tax breaks and other promises which will kick in.  Of course, the government wants to be rewarded at that time for such vision.  Forgive me, if I am so cynical to think their crystal ball might be clouded.  Politics is part of our economic reality in this country I will just have to wait and see if the politics matches the economic prescription our government is giving us.

So while the federal budget has dominated the news in Canada to end the week, the other news of this week has been the changeover to spring on the calendar and the subsequent very cold weather across the country.  It was interesting the other day; one farmer from southwestern Ontario posted a picture on twitter of daffodils blooming last year at this time.  It was 82° a year ago last Wednesday and there were sugar beets going into the ground in Southwest Ontario.  This year it is very cold and miserable across Ontario and parts of Western Canada have extremely heavy snow.  Dreaming about spring seems to be so far off now.

Needless to say, the long-range forecast for Eastern Canada is for a colder than normal spring.  That reminds me of the spring we had in 2011 when your loyal scribe found himself planting corn into June.  It was wet and it was cold and seemingly took forever to get a crop in that year.  The spring forecast reminds me of that kind of struggle.  So let’s hope that I am imagining things.  I still hope to be planting corn in 30 days.

Of course, maybe it will still be snowing then.  I used to have a saying that when I planted corn I was usually freezing to death.  I was always an advocate for planting corn early; typically planting would start for me about April 25th.  The weather always seems to be cold and miserable but I started planting anyway.  Farming in the Deep South west of Ontario with our long growing season, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

With the advancement in seed treatments and hybrid genetics many researchers started encouraging Ontario producers to plant even earlier.  Believe it or not we had 75 acres of corn planted on March 20th last year in southwestern Ontario. That corn didn’t quite make it, but only a few weeks later the major part of Ontario’s 2012 corn crop went into the ground.  I expect it to happen this year, even with very cold soil conditions and maybe even snow.

Of course the landscape will be much clearer post March 28th when the USDA releases their prospective planting report along with several other government numbers.  If old corn stocks are up and the acreage figure for new corn is off the chart, maybe there will not be so much corn planted, that snowy day in April of 2013 when many of us will be chomping at the bit.  Yes, the acreage war is just starting to shape up, surely by the middle of April we’ll have a pretty good indication on how that is going to go.

The challenge of course is to get all of your ducks in a row.  That means deciphering the March 28 USDA report along with Thursday’s federal budget implications for agriculture while at the same time making sure you have enough seed corn in your warehouse.  Of course, I could go on and on; at this time a year it seemingly never ends.  Spring is here; it just doesn’t feel like it yet.