Everybody loves canola. Spring wheat – not so much

My basic takeaway from today’s StatsCan seeding intentions report is: Everyone wants to grow all the canola they can, people aren’t pleased to be growing spring wheat, and no one sees much use for summerfallow – at all.

The data’s a month old, so we all have a tradition each year of saying that it’s WAY outdated by now and farmers’ seeding plans might have changed a bunch. But this year, it’s been a wide open spring, guys are already seeding, the weather hasn’t changed radically, and the markets haven’t gone nuts, other than making canola look even better.

So this is pretty likely to be close to reality. Or at least closer to reality than in most years.

Getting 20.4 million acres of canola will be an exciting new record, and some analysts expect that number to go higher with good weather continuing. It was pleasant to look at the Chicago markets today and see soybean prices shoot higher. That’s not a canola thing, almost certainly, because the difference from analyst expectations was tiny, but it was good to see that oilseed and canola prices weren’t dashed by more evidence that farmers are going to grow a 20 million acre plus crop.

What struck me about the spring wheat number is that it is 800,000 acres less than farmers intended to seed last year. In 2011 farmers had an awful time in eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba with floods and saturation, so the actual seeded acreage numbers are very misrepresentative of what farmers wanted to seed. Instead of a nine percent increase in spring wheat acres this year, it ends up being a four percent decline in acres from what farmers intended to plant last year. Durum’s up a little – but just a little – from last year’s intentions.

Oats acreage is predictably weak, even if it looks like an increase for the reasons mentioned above. The market just keeps refusing to give farmers a reason to be excited about oats, so farmers – being smart – don’t aggressively seed the stuff. For all the worry and anxiety among big commercial users of oats in the U.S. about declining oats acreage, they aren’t paying-up for acreage. Oats was peppy in Chicago today, far more than wheat and corn, so perhaps the market is going to start trying to buy-in a few acres of oats. But it’s got a long way to go.

Summerfallow acres seem more useless than ever to farmers, it seems. There was lots last year and the year before because of weather problems, but even in intentions farmers are keen on getting away from having any unproductive acreage. Less than four million acres will be left without a crop, StatsCan guesses, and almost none in Manitoba will be ungreen.

That low, low summerfallow number allows guys to boost acres of lots of stuff, but the main winner is canola, which is stretching acreages everywhere and what almost every farmer would like to seed if he had a spare quarter section he could seed to anything. Throughout the winter canola has been at the top of the profitability charts, along with malt barley, and money talks with acres. Here’s a slide I saw at Manitoba Ag Days and took a photo of. I keep those from all the meetings I go to and from publications I get as my best gauge of what farmers are going to favour in the spring if they get the right weather.



Canola is second from the left. Oats is the furthest right. Which would you favour? Which avoid?

That pretty much tells the story of what farmers intend to plant, within the limits of their rotations, methinks. And so does everyoneelsethinks.

I was pleased to see Manitoba’s edible bean and soybeans acreage numbers shoot higher. Soybeans are the one crop that matches canola for provoking excitement amongst producers these days. The oilseeds appear to be offering a profit party this year. I wonder about how much we can trust numbers for tiny things like dry beans and sunflowers which can be thrown out by the limitations of surveys applied to micro-crops? I hope edible beans in Manitoba do recover. The industry almost seemed to be disappearing recently.

Big, fat piles of stats and data like these reports give smart analysts days of work to do, and they get giddy with delight at having some fresh fish to fry. It’ll be interesting to see what they winkle-out here about:

* The impact of the unsettled post-CWB monopoly situation on seeding intentions for wheat;

* How much clubroot-terror is behind Alberta’s lack of canola acreage expansion;

* How much acreage lost to saturation last year is good enough to be used this spring;

There are lots of angles for the analytical mafia to have a sitdown about and figure out. Fortunately for my number-challenged mind, I don’t have to do any of that hard work. I just have to give them a day or two to do it all, then call them and steal all their thoughts.

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