At the end of December, U.S. Department of Agriculture found the U.S. breeding herd was almost one percent smaller than on Sept. 1. U.S. hog producers held back six percent fewer gilts than a year before.
 | File photo

Hog prices make surprising recovery as U.S. herd shrinks

After a horrific spring and a scary late summer, hog producers faced better than expected markets in late 2020. And the set-up for 2021 is looking much better than feared. U.S. hog producers appear to have thinned their herds, and that relieves pressure after years of expansion. At the end of December, U.S. Department of […] Read more

It’s great to be keen to play with the big dogs, but it’s best to have an escape plan, just like Louie. | Ed White photo

In this bull market, the best advice is to be like Louie

I bristle when people say my dog Louie is scared. This happens when we come up to another dog and little Louie keeps his distance, backs away from over-friendly and aggressive possible playmates, and always makes sure there’s an escape route behind his butt. To me, this is just caution, prudence and a necessary precursor […] Read more

Rather than latching the trucking company onto its grain company and food operations, it is probably building out Richardson’s capabilities into new industries, says a veteran transportation expert.
 | Screencap via bisontransport.com

Richardson’s Bison deal not seen as ag-related

One Winnipeg giant has swallowed another, but farmers shouldn’t think J.R. Richardson and Sons’ takeover of Bison Transport is focused on agriculture. Rather than latching the trucking company onto its grain company and food operations, it is probably building out Richardson’s capabilities into new industries, says a veteran transportation expert. “I don’t think they bought […] Read more


The COVID-19 pandemic put food service suppliers in a bind last spring as restaurant customers disappeared while deliveries from suppliers continued.  | Getty Images

Food service giant executes pandemic pivot

Sysco found itself forced to improvise last spring, such as helping convert closed restaurants into pop-up grocery stores

The pandemic tore a hole in the hull of Canada’s biggest food service supplier as thousands of restaurants and institutions closed. It also caused Sysco to sail into an iceberg of product oversupply as deliveries continued after its sales slumped. That caused a “pandemic pivot,” Kim Doherty, Sysco’s manager of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, […] Read more

In his new book, Brian Hayward lays out various true story situations of things going awry on boards on which he has served.  | Ed White photo

Long-time ag leader pens management book

Brian Hayward is now an author, but he is better known to farmers as CEO of United Grain Growers and Agricore United

Have you sat upon a board of directors with a terrible chairperson? Have you been the chair of a board and wondered if you were doing a terrible job? Do you even know what a chair is supposed to do and how to judge how well they’re doing it?These are questions Brian Hayward, a long-time […] Read more


How much has Western Canadian grain transportation changed in 25 years? A lot, and not at all

Some things have never and probably will never change in Western Canadian agriculture. Number One of those things is farmers’ and grain companies’ constant and chronic complaints of poor and unreliable rail transportation. From 26 years of working at this newspaper, I’m pretty confident stating that grain transportation has been farmers’ biggest problem of the […] Read more

Mark Hemmes, the president of the federally appointed grain handling monitor Quorum Corp.
, said 2020 was a great year for Canada’s export grain industry, with pandemic-caused slumps in other commodity exports leaving railways and ports free to focus on shipping western Canadian crops. | G3 photo

Grain handling system sees major overhaul

Every element of the system has radically evolved since the mid-1990s, from trucks to elevators to trains to ports


In almost every way, the Canadian grain handling and exporting system is a quantum leap forward from where it was a quarter of a century ago. “There’s been more change in the last 25 years than, I think, the previous 50,” said Mark Hemmes, the president of the federally appointed grain handling monitor Quorum Corp. […] Read more

The prairie grain production business will never be anything other than a never-ending race between the ability of farmers to grow bigger and bigger crops and the ability of the grain-handling system to carry it all.  | Reuters/Valerie Zink photo

Farm success is biggest grain transportation challenge

Some things never change. Especially this: farmers fume when the grain-handling system backs up or slows down and they get stuck with mountains of grain on the farm, have no cash flow and see their incomes and financial security leaking away as the grain companies and railways seem to do fine. Ever since I started […] Read more


The expectations for ever-growing Chinese demand could begin to fail in a few years when that country’s population begins to fall and go grey. In Shanghai, above, residents’ average age is now 41, but it will age steadily going forward.  | Reuters/Aly Song photo

Bullishness must be tempered with realism

Analysts warn producers there is no guarantee that the good times they have seen this year will continue into the future

Farmers shouldn’t indulge in sanctimonious values-signalling about their contributions to humanity when most are just trying to make a buck, says Neil Townsend of FarmLink Marketing. Growing and exporting agricultural commodities is a cutthroat business and there’s no place for lazy assumptions. Western Canadian farmers like to talk about how they feed people around the […] Read more

Record-setting grain-hauling performance during the pandemic is partly due to slumping shipments of other products during the pandemic, but the railroads were already making record shipments of crop in recent years after boosting the capacity of their systems.  | File photo

Railways made the most of grain opportunity

CN and CP say recent legislation allowed them to make the improvements that helped accommodate increased volumes

Nobody knew COVID-19 was coming, but Canada’s railways were primed to make the most of their sudden ability to ship grain to port. Two years of heavy investing into 2020 had set up Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway to be able to haul much more grain than before the 2018 Transportation Modernization Act […] Read more