Remember the Tea Kettle: Online Security Has No Bounds


I finished corn planting the other day, and maybe that’s why there has been a U-turn in December corn. Of course, I’m just kidding, but corn is down approximately 80 cents since last Friday, so remember what I said about volatility. The next 4 weeks of market action are not going to be for the faint of heart. Expect more of the same with the North American crop being put int0 the ground.

We’ll see if that U-turn in December corn continues. I’ve had standing orders hit all the way up, which is a good thing. I also got a call from a local reporter today that wanted my opinion on the highest soybean prices ever in Ontario. He asked, “Is it true and will it continue?” I laughed out loud. I told him risk management never gets old. He said thank you.

Let’s hope his article turns out ok, because as you all know, there is so much more to this story. I was reminded the other day, that this is my 40th season of planting my own crops. It made me reflect on all that time, especially when it came to planting corn. 40 years ago, I basically froze to death on the tractor. Some of you know the drill. I’m thankful for new things. Of course, that auto steer button is the eighth wonder of the world.

New things are usually better than the old ways, but it’s hard to categorize that after the major news of last week, where Russian hackers took down the Colonial pipeline in the United States, cutting off the supply of fuel to the American south and south east. You might remember in my earlier days I said just because you can replace a lever with software doesn’t necessarily mean you should. My first inclination was how did a Russian hacker group called “Darkside” cut off the fuel supply? Simply put, everything is run with software these days on the internet and as of this writing, Colonial pipeline is still trying to get back up 100%.

These hackers somehow infected Colonial’s software with ransomware, which seized control of their business network. At that point, it cascaded, forcing the shutdown. Americans were forced to line up for gas, in fact, on social media, you could even see people loading up plastic bags of gas. It wasn’t a good idea.

I know a younger person here in Canada who works on the Russian hacker file. He speaks fluid Russian, after attending Moscow State University. When he graduated back in Canada, he was employed very quickly by firms dealing with Russian hacks. I actually asked to meet with this young person, as I found it incredibly intriguing. On meeting him, he told me that anything connected to the internet is a risk, even if it’s a tea kettle. He spends his days professionally employed tracking down Russian hackers.

Last week it was Colonial Pipeline, so when is it agriculture? What happens if and when someday my RTK network doesn’t work anymore, where I have to use my eyeball and follow a mark? What happens if hackers break into the CME or other markets which help discovery farm prices? All that farm data in a cloud, just think if it all goes poof. I’m don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but clearly online security is a big deal. Unfortunately, it isn’t bullet proof, and Colonial Pipeline is an example of that.

In addition to Colonial, farmers had another pipeline to worry about last week, Line 5 which comes from Western Canada via Wisconsin, crossing the straits of Mackinac and crossing back across the border at Sarnia Ontario, just north of your loyal scribe’s farm. Governor Gretchen Witmer last November revoked the pipeline’s easement through the Straits of Mackinac and ordered it closed by May 12th. This pipeline delivers approximately 540,000 barrels of oil per day to Eastern Canada and south east Michigan. Shuttering it would be really tough here. All Eastern Canadian agricultural organizations have expressed their angst regarding it. As of today, it’s still running, as Enbridge and the Canadian Government is in court. However, Witmer is a very determined and politically connected Governor. This thing could really impact our Ontario and Quebec agricultural economy.

Last week, I said, “hither the Black Swan”. This week, I can’t imagine that could have been Russian hackers or a Line 5 shuttering. In fact, it probably isn’t, but both of those I never expected, just like I never expected $7 new crop corn in Ontario a year ago. I hope to hit the auto-steer button on soybean planting this coming week. After this past week, I’ll never underestimate the technology behind that push of the finger. Let’s just hope it keeps working. Online security needs to keep evolving. Remember the tea kettle. Who knew somebody across the way, would be so interested.