Farmers should warn lenders of poor looking crops

Low yields could leave farmers strapped for cash

MIAMI, Man. —Joerg Zimmermann urges farmers who face poor production prospects to get their finances in line now.

The unkind reality is that thousands of farmers in the damaged zone face expensive production operations and worse financial prospects in coming weeks.

By next spring, they could be facing a real money squeeze.

“The biggest thing (for) farm management is that they will be in a pretty bad working capital position,” the Agri-Trend farm management adviser said at the end of the four-day CWB crop tour, during which he squatted in dozens of fields and saw both the stunted and ugly crops of the rain struck zone and the lush crops in other prairie regions.

“Go to your banker and talk to him. They will probably understand if they work in the agriculture area.”

Every season has pockets of bad production, but a wide band hundreds of kilometres long from eastern Saskatchewan to central Manitoba was hit by heavy late June rains. Thousands of fields now have poor prospects.

Many farmers around Brandon will probably plant winter wheat within a few weeks, attempting to get something out of unseeded acres caused by the late, wet spring and the rain of late June. That will demand money.

Others have to decide whether to apply fungicides to unpromising looking crops. Weeds and insects may also suggest treatment, but costly operations on poor crops are hard to justify.

Some farmers face costs in field operations to repair rutted and gouged fields.

The tour’s Winnipeg group drove through the southeastern farming belt, west into the western side of the Red River Valley and up over the escarpment to cover much of southwestern Manitoba before moving through eastern Saskatchewan.

The Manitoba leg and some parts of eastern Saskatchewan revealed patchy, drowned and stressed crops, as well as good-looking fields.

Some of the differences between good and bad depended on crop type, with wheat looking generally good while barley often looked bad. Crops outside the worst of the rain zone also looked better than average, if a little late, with few production problems.

However, winter wheat crops in some areas had major disease problems, while weed flushes were pronounced in areas where farmers could not get into their fields in time.

Each situation creates its unique production problems and economic costs, but some farmers in areas hit on multiple years with flooding and saturation could end up in a precarious position by next spring, when they need access to lots of money to pay for the next crop.

Zimmermann said farmers in challenged areas don’t have one of the crutches that they relied upon in recent years: high prices. Prices for many crops are break-even or worse, which means getting a poor yield is a double whammy.