Blue Jays, Royals, Monday’s Election and the Way Ahead

It has been wide-open fall in southwestern Ontario.  Today, I drove my combine to my last field of soybeans and hopefully I will have that off tomorrow.  However, as I drove my combine down the road everybody else seems to be done.  There are fields of green everywhere as wheat that was planted in late September has now emerged.  If 2014 was a harvest from hell, 2015 so far has been benign.  I guess we’ll take that El Niño in Ontario.  You never know what the weather will bring you.

Change is surely in the wind throughout Canada.  Of course, there are a couple of reasons for that.  The first reason is that Canada’s baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays will be fighting for a spot in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals this coming weekend.  I don’t really think this is big news but I am alone on this.  The Blue Jays have been leading every newscast in Canada for the last week and I am sure that this will continue.  There is even a political event on Monday, the federal election which will be vying for Canadians attention on Monday night when the KC Royals will play the Blue Jays in Toronto.

It is nice symmetry that the KC Royals are in the playoffs with the Blue Jays.  I know DTN’s senior grain analyst Darin Newsom used to listen to the play-by-play on the radio growing up on the farm in Kansas.  I’d like to say I did the same thing in Ontario listening to the Blue Jays, but being from the extreme southwest, I listened to the Tigers out of Detroit.  Having said that, I hope the Blue Jays win.

That certainly will be dominating the combine radios throughout Ontario and Québec as corn harvest beckons.  Of course, that other little ditty on Monday night is worth talking about as well.  I learned a long time ago writing this column that being political is an endgame.  However, I did do my master’s thesis in marketing research and I did a lot of sampling and polling.  If done correctly, polling is a microcosm of what will happen.  Based on what I see in the polls, Canadian farmers are looking at a new agricultural minister come Monday.  For many farmers, especially those who are looking forward to that $4.3 billion dropped on their head as compensation for TPP, everything might change Monday.

That is certainly okay with me.  I don’t care who wins because over a period of almost 30 years writing this column I had seen both sides.  Yes, there is no question that agricultural policy is affected by the political winds in Ottawa.  Last election with the Conservative majority our Western Canadian friends got their marketing freedom and the end of the Canadian Wheat Board.  That was all politics and nothing else.  In elections past, supply management was sustained catering to Québec and Eastern Canada.  There has been a myriad of things in between.  So on Monday at the polls remain the same, it is likely there will be a new direction in Canadian agricultural policy.  However, this is Canada and this is agriculture, nothing is ever very drastic.

One thing that I have noticed during this campaign is that there has been very little mention of Canadian agriculture other than the dairy economy and its adjustments with the TPP.  In many ways, that is a comment on how strong that sector is, but it’s also a comment on how urban Canada has become.  Over a period of my career, I can remember each political leader during any election campaign-putting aside a day to talk about the farm policy.  However, 2015 is so different that way.  Canada has become a very urban place and it’s getting increasingly difficult for farmers to project their political voice.

What does that mean?  Well, it depends who you ask but I think that most farmers have become numb to that reality.  At least I would say that outside of the province Quebec. I don’t really see that changing and that will be a continuing challenge for Canadian farmers looking ahead.

That doesn’t mean we should all slink away.  There are still huge political challenges for agriculture in Canada.   In Western Canada there needs to be a solution to grain transportation.  That’s mostly politics mixed with economics.  In Ontario and Québec grain farmers will be looking for federal participation in their provincial risk management plans.  Of course, there is always supply management and you can bet that successive generations of politicians will try to protect it.

So look for change in the next few days.  Yes, a Blue Jays ticket to the World Series would be nice, but I don’t know about those political choices.  Next week will surely clear the air.