Grain farmers should be counting their blessings rather than singing “woe is me” and lobbying for a chunk of the money flowing from Ottawa in a river of COVID-19 support.
Other sectors of agriculture have real problems caused by the pandemic and they deserve a lot more attention than the Trudeau government has provided. That’s not the case, at least not at this point, for grain farmers.
Yes, there was the litany of problems before the pandemic — the harvest from hell and grain transportation problems caused by protests and blockades. But since then, we’ve haven’t had much to complain about.
Business is not quite as usual at your fertilizer and ag chemical dealers and at your equipment dealerships, but from what I’ve seen, a high level of service is being maintained despite an official policy of social distancing.
Alberta may be a different story with many more active cases, but the number of cases is low in rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba. While we shouldn’t let our guard down, people are breathing easier. The perceived threat is a lot lower than a few weeks ago.
Where in the world would you rather be right now to stay safe from infection? You can feel pretty safe on your seeder and sprayer out in the middle of a field.
At this time of year, some regions are often facing the early spectre of drought. Alternatively, spring can bring regions that are waterlogged and flooded. At this point, no serious and widespread lack of moisture or too much moisture issues have materialized. The recent snowfall in many areas was a seeding delay, but not abnormal.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are relatively inexpensive and diesel fuel is a bargain. Product availability seems to be good.
After a rough winter, the grain transportation system is performing well. This may in part be due to a slowdown in the movement of other commodities with world trade and economic activity subdued.
While livestock prices have dropped, in some cases precipitously, and a lack of demand has caused potato producers to curtail acreage, grain producers have seen their prices hold steady and even increase.
The price of canola is nothing to brag about, but China is steadily buying a bit more. In fact, statistics indicate they were the top buyer of Canadian canola in March.
Compared to a year ago at this time, cash canola prices are about 50 cents a bushel better. Wheat, on the other hand, is about steady.
The news in other commodities is largely positive. Durum prices are up significantly from a year ago as are flax and peas. Lentil prices have seen an amazing recovery and there will be far more lentils planted than indicated in the Statistics Canada seeding intentions report.
What’s more, you can lock in profitable prices on many commodities for fall delivery — a luxury we don’t always enjoy.
Surprisingly, even some of the right-wing, market oriented commentators are whining about the lack of government support. For the livestock sector, that’s legitimate. For grain producers, it’s embarrassing.
The usual problems and concerns still exist and while the pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty, this could be a good year for the grain industry.
Grain farmers shouldn’t be crying wolf when the wolf isn’t at our door. For now at least, we should be counting our blessings.