Prairie farming and agriculture feel very different as we roll into 2020 from the place we were at the beginning of 2010. But what is that difference? | File photo

Decade began with the wheat board and ended in chaos

We roared into the 2010s raging about the Canadian Wheat Board as we rode atop a raging commodity bull market. We stumble out of 2019 savaged by dreadful weather, struggles to break even and a suddenly harsh world environment. And in the midst of it all, we saw farmers make some great profits, suffer some […] Read more

No matter where I have gone this fall and winter, I’ve picked up a constant murmur of anxiety and worry from the farmers I talk with. 
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Stress, anxiety can result in poor decision-making, risk

How much value-at-risk (VaR) is your farm carrying this winter? And what’s the chief cause of that risk? With so much of this year’s crop in poor condition and in perilous situations, the average prairie farm’s revenues could swing by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how well those crops are treated […] Read more

Canada doesn’t have to abandon its commitment to the rules-based international trading order just to survive in the new era of me-first politics.  |  REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker photo

Current trade environment not just an either/or scenario

At some point we might have to accept that this new trade reality is actually real. And we’ll have to react to that reality by changing the way we farm, act and interact with the rest of the world. That’s something quite a few Canadians are grappling with in light of the ongoing and no-end-in-sight […] Read more


Canada must rebuild its risk management safety net to include specific trade dispute damage, considering what is happening to export markets around the world.  |  File photo

Market access loss may force risk management overhaul

I heard two things recently that made me think Canada’s farm risk management programs have a gaping hole. “It’s like we’re continually targeted. How do we deal with this?” Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said to me during the Manitoba Protein Summit. “As a primary producer, am I going to be taking risk […] Read more

The industry has spent decades working on how to extract protein and other compounds from crops. The effort is now manifesting itself in the increasing supply of plant-based protein products, such as this burger patty made with black beans and canola protein powder, which was photographed last month at Burcon’s alternative meats protein lab in Winnipeg.  |   REUTERS/Shannon VanRaes photo

Plant-based protein craze is not an overnight sensation

Yup, this plant protein explosion shows how a new market can come out of nowhere and become an overnight success. That’s what tens of millions of consumers, food processors and providers everywhere are probably thinking right now as everybody rushes to fill their shelves, menus and fridges with plant protein sources. It’s the biggest thing […] Read more


Canadian farmers can’t rely on the kinds of emergency bailouts seen in other parts of the world, mainly Europe and the United States. That’s why our safety net programs are so important.  |  File photo

Canola crisis exposes weakness of farm safety nets

American and European farmers have the world’s best risk management system: political support from sympathetic governments. When a crisis appears, these governments scramble to find a way to prop up their producers. Western Canadian farmers will never have that kind of a safety net to fall into. Partly by the design of confederation (the sparsely […] Read more

The boost in canola-based interest-free cash advances from $100,000 to $500,000 can’t compensate much for marketplace losses, but it will allow farmers to have more cash in hand now and after harvest to settle bills that come due.  |  File photo

Cash advance expansion will act as stress reliever

Will the big boost to cash advances solve the China problem? Nope. Will it compensate farmers fully for their losses from the spat between Beijing and Ottawa? No. Will it remove canola-marketing worries from farmers throughout 2019-20? No way. But as a temporary stopgap, it’s a good stress reliever, a shield against some bad choices […] Read more

Western Canadian farmers face a unique set of challenges and risks that requires a uniquely western Canadian approach to balancing the opportunities of coming decades with much higher levels of risk than faced by most of our competitors.  |  File photo

What farmers must know when facing anti-trade future

American farmers can get away with risk-taking that is likely to devistate reckless Canadian farmers. European farmers can also roll the dice on gambles that are likely to destroy Canadians. Each of those giant players has enormous domestic markets and a government committed to protecting producers. When foreign markets are shut off for them, it’s […] Read more


Farmers shouldn’t worry about thinking strategically when marketing their canola this year until they price at least some of their crop.  |  File photo

Timing is tough when marketing around a trade dispute

A farmer who gets the timing right on the end of the China-Canada canola dispute could make a lot of money. After all, any resolution of the lingering and worsening crisis could see canola prices pop dozens of dollars per tonne, rising a couple of bucks a bushel. When China began shutting off its market […] Read more

Canada is particularly vulnerable to a disease like African swine fever because it exports so much of its pork production.  |  Reuters/Daniel Acker photo

Canada must act like African swine fever is already here

The reality of African swine fever is so obvious that Canada should already be acting like it’s here. There’s lots of talk about getting ready to act if ASF hits, but that’s not good enough. To protect Canadian farmers against the worst of the multibillion-dollar impact that any ASF outbreak will have, Canada needs to […] Read more