Fearless predictions for the decade ahead

While 20/20 may be considered good eyesight, having the calendar turn over to 2020 doesn’t improve the vision for future gazing. Despite that, here are some predictions for agriculture in the decade ahead. Warning: some of these may make your blood boil. They aren’t necessarily what I want to see happen; they are what I think will happen.

The use of this extremely valuable and safe herbicide will be lost or at best seriously curtailed in the years ahead. Public perception is trumping science and an increasing number of countries are poised to ban glyphosate in the near future.

When a country bans glyphosate, it will also want zero detectable glyphosate residues on any of the food products it imports. Even if glyphosate use remains permissible in Canada, its use will put our export markets at risk.

We already see restrictions by purchasers not wanting a crop that’s had a pre-harvest glyphosate application. Pre-harvest use will eventually end for all crops and we’ll be lucky if we can maintain glyphosate for its other uses.

The loss of glyphosate will dramatically change farming practices. Along with glyphosate, many other crop protection products will also be terminated, due mainly to an overabundance of caution and a public that doesn’t understand science.

The climate change hysteria isn’t going away and it’s going to have an impact on all facets of agriculture. The fear is now so ingrained in such a large proportion of the population that the tide cannot be reversed.

Remember the Y2K fears as we approached the year 2000. Computers wouldn’t know how to make the transition to a new century of timekeeping. Power plants might go off-line and planes might fall from the sky.

That didn’t come to pass, so the fears were debunked. That can’t happen in the same way with climate change. The climate has always changed and there will always be weather-related disasters to convince the population of an impending apocalypse.

Fossil fuels will be around for a long time to come, but the pressure for “greener” energy sources will continue. Agriculture must more effectively position itself as part of the solution, but that won’t be easy.

If you were buying land 10 years ago, it was a great investment. Buying land now is unlikely to generate a comparable windfall.

Many producers are still expansion minded and many young farmers want a start in the business so land prices may not drop. However, the big year-to-year price increases are likely over.

If the farm economy hits a rough few years and some large operators exit, the supply of land for sale and for rent could increase. As well, if interest rates ever rise a bit, land that’s not appreciating in value will not be as attractive to investors. Nor will it be as attractive to owners who have inherited land, but don’t farm it themselves.

Land will continue to be worth much more than its productive value, but the market is going to cool down considerably.

About half of the canola we grow is crushed for oil and meal domestically. This value-added success story doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. In the decade ahead, various other forms of crop processing will flourish, led by plant protein fractionation. Less reliance on the export market for raw grains will be a valuable development for the entire sector.

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