Supply and demand: if they were real

Grow what the market demands. Feed the world what it’s missing. Give the consumer what they long for. Meet shortage with supply. Adapt to meet the need. Etc., etc., etc.

I’ve heard it all my life. My parents heard it and their parents. And being we’ve farmed for quite a while, likely the mantra of supply and demand has been heard for generations in our family.

There have been some hiccups along the way for Canadian producers. There were times, such as the LIFT program (Lower Inventory for Tomorrow) from 1970, where farmers were paid to not grow wheat. That came after more than a billion bushels piled up on the Prairies after the very successful, 18 million acre hard red spring wheat harvest of 1969.

Combined with the low prices of the late 1960s, it was too much for the system and not enough for producers. The federal government felt it needed to do something to curtail supply and create cash flow, and Agriculture Minister Otto Lang did.

Whether it worked or, more likely, the world’s demand for wheat did, the crop became popular enough to rebound and the Canadian Wheat Board was once again able to supply some quota.

The CWB itself did have effects on the supply and demand system. It is unlikely it was protecting producers from profits and probably was better for growers than other options at the time.

Current affairs are such that, despite the planet’s largest nation demanding pork to the point that its domestic prices have exceeded 4.5 times that of Canadian markets, we aren’t seeing that action on our shores.

Global corn supplies, excluding the United States, are at some of the lowest levels since the American drought of 2012. In 2012-13, it took 81 percent of the continental U.S. experiencing a category D0, abnormally dry condition, to cause markets to respond to a threatened supply.

Meanwhile, our supposedly free-trading, open-marketing neighbours to the south have been breaching international trade agreements and distorting our prices lower in support of their farmers, all while damaging our export opportunities elsewhere.

Supply and demand have seldom been what free-marketeers have claimed them to be. But, without strong Canadian public support for farming, they might be the best set of market signals that our producers can get.

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