Harvest is suppose to be a time of happiness on the prairie, but it seems to me that each year it is getting more stressful and depressing.
The last five years of frost, drought, frost, big yields, no prices and finally everything from monsoon rains to none for 40 days then bugs and disease, have taken their toll on me and most of my neighbors.
The Canadian system is in the toilet and not getting any better. Total payouts on our farm after all the wrecks have totaled less than $10,000. Good marketing, cleaning and cutting costs are not rewarded. Throwing the "Hail Mary" pass each year and betting the farm are getting payments because when you have a wreck, it's bad...really bad.
The experts with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food are talking about an average crop, but after a conference call with my guys throughout Saskatchewan, it's not even close to that assessment. The Winnipeg Commodity exchange is fascinated with last year's crops and carryover, and believes that even with a average crop, they can get the product out of the farmers' hands because they have to pay bills.
In the Canadian system where you have no clue if you qualify for a program, cash flow is not there. Lines of credit are the norm. When a grain company phones for premium for a product, they offer a difference of pennies from the market. Most farmers grab the price since they need the cash. The Canadian Wheat Board comes with such low initial prices that they set the floor price for feed wheat. If a farmer needs cash and has to liquidate his crop for money, he sells to the feed market instead of waiting a year for the final price.
It seems to me that in Canada, the system gives farmers just enough so they don't hang themselves but not enough so they get ahead and can control their destiny. It's sad when an adult in his or her mid-40s is one of the youngest farmers in a district. When a young man can work in a Super Store and make over $15 an hour, why farm for peanuts?
Innovation in agriculture in Canada is another joke. Biodiesel was started years back in Foamlake with trying to take canola oil and making a diesel fuel. It never really got off the ground. Now with high oil prices, there might be a new market for canola and hard red spring wheat. But in Canada, we've already been left behind. It's really hard to invest in technology after years of neglect.
Yes, there are farmers who are doing well in western Canada. But chances are, they have oil rights, daddy's money or own a business in town and hobby farm 100 quarters. There are also the ones who have left the farm at the size their dad farmed and are still using his equipment, having virtually no debt, but they are hoping good times come soon or their farm will falter.
My advice to any farmer who thinks they have been getting ahead the last few years, is wait until Mother Nature throws a couple of bad years at you, then you see how the system that's supposed to help you fails. Farming won't seem so grand.