Canola growers face rough ride as challenges mount

I’m predicting a dour mood this week in Montreal, as canola growers and those who live off their crop production efforts gather for the Canola Council of Canada annual convention. Problems have piled up for what’s become most farmers’ favourite crop. The spread of clubroot and the worsening of blackleg have thrown a pall into […] Read more

Workers set up a wild boar fence along the Danish-German border last month in an attempt to keep African swine fever out of Denmark.  |  Ritzau Scanpix/Frank Cilius photo

Spectre of African swine fever haunts Canadian industry

Canadian hog farmers and Canada’s pork industry are world export champions, selling most of what they produce to foreign buyers. That’s something to be proud about. Canadian farmers are selling top-quality product to picky foreign buyers who have the choice to buy pork from anywhere, but often find Canada’s to be the best combination of […] Read more

It’s almost impossible to come up with reasonable expectations for profit potential when buying farmland that will take 20 years to pay off.  |  File photo

Purchasing farmland is always a high-risk gamble

In risk management, everything you do should be based on reasonable expectations. Even if you’re the gambling type, you should only be making gambles in which you know the odds you’re playing with. That applies to short-term situations, like the kinds of prices your crops or livestock will likely fetch a few months from now. […] Read more


Soybean prices remain at the worst levels they’ve suffered since the end of the commodities boom, while corn, the other bellwether crop, is stumbling along beneath US$4 per bushel.  |  File photo

Worries abound as markets wallow in distressing times

The world has a lot to worry about. That has been demonstrated in a way that those of us who follow markets closely can see most clearly: in the prices of commodities and stocks. The S&P 500 index is still well underneath levels it first surpassed in late 2017 and is still near correction territory […] Read more

Farmers say the cash advance program can be a distraction from the more important parts of their business.  |  File photo

Cash advances often not worth the hassle for farmers

When is free money not worth it? When it’s too much hassle in a business where time is money. That’s the message I’m getting from a number of farmers I’ve talked with about why they don’t use cash advances, which seem like free money, in a theoretical sense. In reality, the financial gain just doesn’t […] Read more


Farmers need to start clamouring for better grain transportation infrastructure if they don’t want to suffer the fate of oilsand producers.  |  File photo

Oil trouble shows risk of grain bottlenecks

You’re probably used to grain transportation constrictions costing you money and messing up your marketing plan. Don’t be too comfortable with that uncomfortable reality. It could get worse — a bunch worse. If you think 2013-14 or 1996-97 were bad, be thankful they were mostly one-year phenomena. Look over your fence line, or at the […] Read more

The Americans’ recent bungling of trade files means their country is far behind Canada, which must make the most of these new-found opportunities.  |  File photo

U.S. trade mess is Canada’s chance to gain advantage

So, what now? With the U.S. midterm elections done, we have more certainty about who has the power and influence in Washington for the next two years. Unfortunately, that doesn’t provide a lot of certainty for trade. Will the U.S. approve NAFTA2? Will the U.S. attempt to get back into the new Trans-Pacific Partnership? Most […] Read more

The failure of interest rates to rise during the financial crisis in 2008 is credited with spurring the massive agricultural expansion that followed.  |  REUTERS/Mark Blinch photo

2008 crisis showed importance of interest rates

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a series of columns looking at the lessons learned from the financial crisis of 2008. Basic assumptions failed. Reasonable expectations were vexed. Predicting the future became perilous for any prognosticator. However, Phil Shaw found an old lesson verified in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008-09: interest […] Read more


Supply management could be ready for some further consideration after the trade deals that have recently given up ground to international markets.  |  Michael Raine photo

Canada’s supply managed sectors must now avoid stagnation

Ed White’s series on lessons learned from the financial crisis of 10 years ago will resume next week. Now is the time to face up to the bad math that threatens to throttle the future of the Canadian dairy industry. In the aftermath of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, there is a lot of talk of […] Read more

Traders in the corn options pit at the CME Group signal orders shortly before the closing bell in Chicago, Feb. 11, 2011. Large speculators trimmed their net-long stakes in Chicago Board of Trade corn futures and options by adding shorts to their position as prices approached 2-1/2-year highs.  |  REUTERS/Frank Polich photo

Manage farms like low-margin, high-volume businesses

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a series of columns looking at the lessons learned from the financial crisis of 2008. There’s no sure-fire way for a farm protect itself against crash risk. The 2008-09 financial crisis proved that, and it sent a shockwave through the farming and agriculture industries, causing immense damage and […] Read more