Federal Agr. Minister Strahl Gives Green Light For More Protests

The headlines screaming out from my local Chatham Ontario newspaper are telling. It says, “Keep Fighting: Strahl”, “Federal agr. minister encourages more farm rallies.” If you hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have believed it. Now we have a federal agriculture minister who is encouraging protests.

It wasn’t all so dreamy. I wasn’t intending on going. However, in the interest of being relevant I decided against that. The problem was the meeting was by invitation only. I had no invitation. Through the good graces of Chatham-Kent Essex MP Dave Van Kesteran I got an invite to the meeting.

It must be the post 9/11 hangover. Security was tight at Ridgetown. I was questioned twice on who I was. Others were denied entry in the building. I thought it was over the top. Next time Strahl comes to southwestern Ontario farm country, let’s lighten up.

As for Chuck Strahl, it looks to me he’s like a cup of cold water on a hot sticky day. What you say? Am I losing my mind? Have I lost my hard edge? No, I haven’t, but when have you ever heard an agriculture minister say, “He was shaking in his pants” before he took the podium in Ottawa at the February 21st farm rally. When have you ever heard an agriculture minister say we needed to protest more? Does that remind you of Andy Mitchell, Lyle VanClief or Ralph Goodale? I don’t think so.

However, in the end it might not make much difference. With farm rallies planned in Ottawa things are reaching out toward a crescendo. If the UPA of Quebec gets involved, it may be historic. But this time there is a green light from an agriculture minister. You would think something has to break sometime.

Hopefully that will not only be the political front but also the commodity prices front. I talked with a very respected farm leader last week that has raised futures charting to a different level. I have great respect for him having mentioned his musings about the Canadian dollar in past columns? He mentioned to me Ontario soybean cash prices starting with a $4.xx bushel.

No, I’m not trying to alarm you. He didn’t volunteer it. I too like to muse about commodity prices. Typically when I’m asked to speak I take my price charts with me. So I made mention May soybean futures at $5.74 cents are still way above their historical lows. He concurred and we both mused about where things were going.

Of course the big problem with soybeans is too much supply with the spectre of “bird flu” on the horizon. With chickens on a solid diet of soybean meal it is like a big weight on the price glider. Prices can’t soar as long as the spectre of the weight getting bigger and bigger. The hype of Avian flu doesn’t do soybean producers any good.

In Canada almost everybody is vowing to never grow corn again. Without a safety net that’s probably the safe choice. However December corn futures at $2.51 a bushel do offer a premium over 2005/06 cash prices. Some producers might decide to “pick their poison” and take their chances on corn versus $4.xx soybeans with their rust and aphids.

Am I being too pessimistic? Is hope on the way? How about that loonie? It has been backing off lately. It reached a 14-year high of 88.5 cents US earlier this month. Its now back to 85 cents and change. Where are all those folks who said it was going to 90 cents and par? Yes, they are still here, just hiding in the bushes. Our loonie will surely hold sway on the value of a bushel this year.

When Chuck Strahl left Ridgetown last week he said he was headed to Yorkton, Saskatchewan. That’s one of the challenges for any Canadian agriculture minister. His next stop could be Kensington PEI, after that Osoyoos British Columbia, after that Ste Ange, Quebec. He’s sees everything when producers in their own local area don’t necessarily see. This is a big country, if they choose the federal minister gets to see the big picture.

Of course as we all know that has not always been the case in the past. The jury is still out on Strahl. The Saskatchewan NDP government wants an immediate $200 million cash infusion for Saskatchewan farmers. So it gets very complicated. Surely his litmus test will come later this year. That’s unless the commodity market bails him out first.