Covid19 still stalks our land, but of course it is always a matter of perspective. As of September 3rd, we’ve had 9140 Canadians die from Covid 19. Worldwide, we have 26.1 million cases and rising with 864000 deaths. In farm country, living with the virus is in overdrive as everybody has become accustomed to social distancing and the different rules. However, despite how bad it is, it has a different feel that it did earlier in March when it all started. Farming amid the Covid pandemic is the new normal. However, as each week goes by, it becomes more routine, even though at times, it’s incredibly limiting. Who knows, when we’ll be able to safely shake hands again.
Even though some of the changes seem routine now, this would have been so hard to imagine a year ago. Last year around this time, many farmers headed off to the Outdoor Farm Show near Woodstock Ontario. Of course, this year, everything like that is either cancelled or gone virtual. Visit your local parts supplier and you are greeted with masks and other barriers.
The hope of course is to be able to keep the infection rate down and kick the can down the road until a vaccine makes it so much easier again. When this started the great non-farm, economy cratered, and the agricultural economy fractured as supply lines were changed aggressively. Trying to turn some corners especially for agricultural commodities such as milk really strained our agricultural models. There were other issues with slaughtering capacity especially with the virus taking no prisoners. Food demand was affected by the lockdown just like ethanol demand. It was like the agricultural economy was being shaken violently and despite that, held together. As we head into September, we’ve proven we can do it. However, I’m sure many of you are like me, this thing cannot end soon enough.
Covid 19 has changed a whole bunch of things. We know that. I’m wondering how we will emerge from this pandemic. How long will it take our Canadian economy to rebound along with our unemployment rate? Or will that simply be a function of how safe people feel in our society? Or is it all about that proverbial vaccine?
As we all know governments world-wide have responded to the virus with unprecedented infusions of cash put into their economies. Faced with a pandemic and the spectre of widespread death by disease, we went into lockdown and people had to be supported. In Canada there were many initiatives started by government, one being the CERB, which helped people by the tune of $2000 a month. There were other examples all over the world in various countries. Government debt levels rose to proportions hardly even imagined. In December of 2019 our federal deficient was approximately $19.8 billion. Now it’s close to $350 billion. It’s like it happened in the blink of an eye.
Many of you like to debate the politics of these deficits, but I’d like to leave that for another day. The infusion of capital has helped people get by and also helped the stock market to rise significantly. However, unemployment rates are still very high at 10.9%. In the United States, the unemployment rate is approximately 10.2%. People are still hurting form losing their jobs caused by the pandemic. The stock market is weighted heavily by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Take them out of the index, the stock market hardly moves.
Needless to say, it’s not fair to ignore those big five, by pretending they are not there. The road to post Covid 19 recovery for the economy will probably lie with even newer high tech digital “stuff”. As we all know, there are no gatherings and increasingly companies and organizations have found out that they can get things done digitally and virtually. Looking ahead there will probably be so much more of that until the vaccine comes along.
A good thing has happened in spite of all this for soybeans producers. Drought somewhere else (Iowa) and renewed Chinese soybean buying has helped raise prices over the $12 level for the first time in two years. This has happened along with a surge in soybean oil prices and renewed Chinese demand. Its welcome news for a farm community looking for a little boost. If we could only get that Canadian dollar to stop surging, it would make it better.
Needless to say, that’s been happening because the US dollar has weakened. High Covid19 infection rates in the US have helped that scenario along. Uncertainty going into the November 3rd election has weighed in too. Looking ahead, with schools opening or already opened everywhere, the watch will be on those Covid 19 numbers. We’ll hope that won’t cause a further spike and set everything back. The road ahead will certainly be more of the same, but I do see glimmers of hope. Living with this virus is doable. However, we need to thrive again. Hopefully, fresh good news will be right around the corner.