Harvest Time Amid the Covid 19 Second Wave

Combines have begun to roll in SW Ontario even though all the soybeans are not necessarily ready. I got rolling September 22nd into an early field. I even had one load of soybeans test 9.8%, which I think is the lowest moisture reading I’ve ever received over a career for soybeans. Warm late summer weather has made this happen, but it came after a pretty unusual heavy frost on September 19th. The effect of that is still not apparent, but it was not fooling. A few hours at -1 C doesn’t lie.

Soybean and corn futures prices have backed off this week as harvest is in overdrive across much of the greater American corn belt. However, market orders for $13 soybeans did hit in SW Ontario. It was a rare late summer pre harvest gift for Ontario and Quebec soybean producers, who have been pounded pretty hard since the advent of the US China trade war, which commenced in July of 2018.

What happens next? Well, as I’ve said many times, nobody knows, and daily market intelligence is key. Unfortunately, some of our old problems are still with us in the name of Covid 19, which continues to show its ugly head. This past week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation on the Covid 19 crisis. It’s pretty unprecedented for a Canadian Prime minister to do this. It was followed by all our Canadian opposition leaders.

There were lots of politics involved and I’ll leave that there. That is of no concern to me. What I am concerned about is what is being called the second wave of Covid 19. Both the Prime Minister and the Quebec and Ontario Premiers are warning about the problems concerning a boost of Covid infections this fall. All levels of government are now spending money to keep Canadians safe from Covid 19. We all want it to come to an end, but regrettably, it’s not so easy. We need that little bit of normalcy, but it would seem to be so far away.

In the spring, our agricultural and social reality seemed to be right out of a horror movie. Initially when the virus hit here, nobody had a real clue how things would go as we were put into lock down. The agricultural economy was fractured as supply lines were strained and, in many cases, broken. Agricultural demand for almost every commodity was curtailed. Getting parts at the parts counter was an adventure in hand offs. Needless to say, as we enter fall, as farmers, we learned to get our work done and keep the food system moving. However, the landscape we’re in looks completely different now.

There is simply very little personal interaction like we once knew. We wear masks almost everywhere. Grain and livestock companies have protocols to minimize or eliminate close human contact. Big group events like field days have been cancelled, ditto for the bigger agricultural conferences coming this winter. Everything has changed and now according to our public health officials it’s getting worse again.

The Covid 19 case count was 409 today in Ontario after getting to double digits only a few weeks ago. Of course, the difference now is we’ve been through lock down and a summer where we’ve employed the three C’s: avoiding crowded spaces, close contact and closed spaces. For many of us in farm country, that’s been easy, but not so for many other people who work off the farm. As we move ahead, the challenges are obvious. Can we flatten the curve again, minimizing the problems and kicking this can down the road until a vaccine is at hand?

There are differences of opinion for sure. Just look south across our border to see how a large diversely populated country has dealt with the pandemic. It also exists here, but Canadians shouldn’t be smug about us beating back a virus with no vaccine vs any other nation. As we head into our colder months, we don’t know what may happen. However, heeding the public health advice, which got us to this point seems a good path.

That path ahead is unknown, and who knows, might get pretty dark. Let’s hope for better things. The flexing within our agricultural economy will likely continue, but the major heavy lifting is probably over. With Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc leader Yves Francois Blanchette both testing positive for Covid 19, it’s an example of how insidious this virus can be. Nobody is immune yet.

The late summer rally in grain prices was good for the soul. It’s also serves as a clue to how some things never stay the same, even low grain prices. I’m hoping for that too with Covid 19. It’ll be over someday, like all pandemics end. Needless to say, we’re not close to that yet. Let’s move ahead safely, hoping for good things.