THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012
VOL. 89 | NO. 21 | $3.75
A YEAR AFTER THE FLOOD | P26
SERVING WESTERN CANADIAN FARM FAMILIES SINCE 1923
SPECIAL REPORT | ANIMAL WELFARE
COMMUNITY SPIRIT | PLANE CRASH FATALITIES
Tragedy spurs town to action Community supports victims’ families | Seeding bee is ‘a way of farmers giving flowers’ BY BARB GLEN LETHBRIDGE BUREAU
MOSSLEIGH, Alta. — One of Mossleigh’s primary landmarks is owned by the man the community now mourns. Eric Donovan, 38, who died May 12 in a plane crash along with his 11-year-old son, Wade, and his
friend and pilot Denny Loree, 59, owned the northernmost of three old grain elevators that are the town’s landmarks on Highway 23. Donovan had recently put new siding on the fading elevator, replacing the flaking Parrish and Heimbecker paint with the colours of his trucking firm, EDT. On May 16, Donovan’s family,
friends and neighbours gathered on three quarters southwest of town to finish seeding the crop he had started. Six air seeders, two semis and several tandems stirred the dust under a deep blue sky showing only a few high clouds. With the wind light at about four knots,itwouldhavebeenaperfectday
for Loree to fly his Piper Cherokee. The farmer loved flying and did it often. On the day he died, he was helping Donovan by flying to St. Brieux, Sask., home of Bourgault Industries, to pick up a part for Donovan’s seeder. Wade was along for the ride. SEE TRAGEDY SPURS ACTION, P 3
Animal welfare concerns growing Fast food chains and supermarkets may incite push to open housing
» BY ROBERT ARNASON & BARB GLEN BRANDON, LETHBRIDGE BUREAUS
Opposition to sow stalls appears to have reached a tipping point in North America. McDonald’s, Burger King, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s and Safeway have all announced plans in the last four months to eventually buy pork only from farms with open housing systems. The corporate decisions represent a victory for animal welfare organizations in Canada and the United States, which have called for an abolition of sow stalls for more than a decade. SEE ANIMAL WELFARE CONCERNS, P 2
Nathan Weber helps fill a cart with fertilizer as he and other neighbours of Eric and Wade Donovan, and Denny Loree, who were killed in a May 12 plane crash, prepare to seed 600 acres of canola on Donovan’s land near Mossleigh, Alta. | BARB GLEN PHOTO
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Animal welfare concerns If sow gestation stalls have indeed reached a point of no return, then leaders of Canada’s livestock industry will need to ask themselves a difficult question: should they work more closely with animal welfare advocates in the future or should they continue to fight their campaigns from a distance? Cam Dahl, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers, said it’s critical to engage the public in conversations about animal welfare. But there’s a big difference between those concerned about animals and those determined to eliminate animal agriculture. “We can’t let the activists be the only ones that are having a conversation with the majority of the public,” said Dahl. “That vast majority in the middle, who we call consumers, are starting to care a lot more about issues like this. That question, where does my food come from, is being asked a lot more frequently.” Dahl said the decision by fast food restaurants and grocery stores to buy pork only from open housing systems is simply their response to consumers. “They’re not doing that out of a feeling of benefiting the greater world. They’re doing it because they think their customers want it.” John Maaskant, an Ontario chicken producer and former chair of the Ontario Farm Animal Council, has a similar view, but he thinks activists get these results through intimidation and threats of bad publicity. He thinks companies are more concerned about image and market share than they are about animal welfare. He added that producers need to meet with food companies and other customers to explain their production methods and choices. “Promoting good animal welfare and continual improvement of animal welfare, based upon the best available information … is very, very important for us to be involved in.” Melissa Matlow of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in Toronto admits she is an animal welfare activist and a vegetarian. However, that doesn’t mean she dreams of a day when all Canadians are vegans and all slaughter plants are closed. “I don’t advocate others to follow my lead. I’m very happy with people just being conscientious eaters,” said Matlow, campaigns manager with
INSIDE THIS WEEK
SPECIAL REPORT | FROM PAGE ONE
Ag Stock Prices Classifieds Events, Mailbox Livestock Report Market Charts Opinion Open Forum On The Farm Weather
Promoting good animal welfare and continual improvement of animal welfare, based upon the best available information … is very, very important for us to be involved in.
JOHN MAASKANT ONTARIO CHICKEN PRODUCER
the WSPA. She said the divide between animal welfare advocates and livestock producers is overstated. “I think our viewpoints become more polarized in the media because it makes a great story,” she said. “We might have a different definition of what good welfare is, but the intentions are still the same.” Matlow may believe it’s acceptable for Canadians to eat animal protein as long as sows are raised in open housing and chickens aren’t overcrowded, but many vegetarians don’t take that laissez faire approach to meat. Last fall, the Toronto Vegetarian Association ran ads in the city’s subway cars with the image of a Jack Russell terrier and a baby pig and the tag line, “why love one and eat the other?” The WSPA encourages people to eat less meat because it believes the level of global meat consumption is unsustainable, but Matlow said consumers should pay more for meat from livestock producers who farm in a manner that’s kinder to animals. Premiums for humane animal protein are an attractive concept, but Canada’s livestock industry needs to protect itself from downside risk, said Allan Preston, former Manitoba Agriculture assistant deputy minister, veterinarian and operator of a mixed farm near Hamiota, Man. “In an ideal world, you’d like to be able to capture the premium that might be there in the supply chain, by doing A, B, C and D. “But, in actual fact, sometimes it’s more a matter of avoiding the discrimination or the loss of markets by not doing it,” he said. “I’m growing increasingly concerned that we’ll see non-tariff trade barriers based on animal welfare standards.”
84 41 36 9 86 10 12 25 87
Molecular sponge: A chemist creates molecular sponges from straw to absorb toxins and produce biofuel. See page 18. | WILLIAM DEKAY PHOTO
» RESEARCH CUTS: The fed» » »
eral government is cutting a popular pesticide application research program. 5 PESTICIDE BAN: A supporter of a cosmetic pesticide ban in Manitoba questions public support for such a ban. 16 WATER USE: Farmers must produce more with less water as demands grow on the nonrenewable resource. 17 VITERRA DEAL: Agrium is confident the federal government will OK its bid to buy Viterra’s retail network. 19
» HAND OFF: Ottawa appears
Joanne Paulson, Editor Ph: 306-665-3537 email@example.com
poised to hand over hazard control and quality compliance to industry. 20 ONE YEAR LATER: Livestock producers on the edge of Lake Manitoba still cope with last year’s flooding. 26 SPECIAL REPORT: Can livestock producers and animal welfare advocates find room to meet in the middle? 28 HOLY BATMAN: The arrival of a disease that wipes out entire bat populations is bad news for prairie farmers. 33
» WHEAT FUTURES: Farmers aren’t in any »
rush to hedge their wheat and durum. 6 POTASH SALES: China is expected to raise potash imports to boost corn yields. 8
» DIRECT SALES: Buying directly from a farm
is one of the hottest food trends. 21 ON THE FARM: Farming in Toronto’s shadow comes with challenges. 25
» DUAL FUEL: Engines that burn both diesel »
and natural gas have arrived. 77 DON’T SPLIT: Researchers find no yield benefit to split nitrogen applications. 78
» HORSE EDUCATORS: These trainers help »
SEE THE COMPLETE SPECIAL REPORT, PAGES 28-31
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FARM LIVING 21
Barry Wilson Editorial Notebook Hursh on Ag Market Watch Perspectives on Management A Prairie Practice TEAM Living Tips
riders find harmony with their horses. 79 BISON STATUS: U.S. Wood bison are now threatened rather than endangered. 80
» LEGUMEX WALKER: The world economic
The European Union ambassador to Canada is Matthias Brinkmann. His name was misspelled in a page 1 story in the May 3 issue.
crisis hurts profits at Legumex Walker. 84 SMALL FARMING: Interest in small-scale farming is increasing, supporters say. 85
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COMMUNITY SPIRIT | FROM P.1
Tragedy spurs town into action As they neared St. Brieux, the plane collided with another plane flown by Eric and Joy Jackson of Regina. No one survived. “Because it was the weekend, they thought it would be faster to fly up and get them,” said Reno Bexte, a long-time friend of both Donovan and Loree, who works at P & H in Mossleigh. Inside the crop services centre, a chair in the coffee area is overturned. It’s the chair Donovan used to sit in almost every morning, wearing the sandals he favoured in both winter and summer. His chair faced the door, so he could visit with everyone who came in. What was he like? Every friend and neighbour has the same response to that question: a smile. “He was a practical joker. He was in here every day,” said P & H general manager Monty Beagle. “He was loud and fun and animated,” added Donovan’s neighbour, Nathan Weber, as he filled tanks with fertilizer before last week’s seeding bee began. “Put him in a room of people, he was really a lot of fun.” Besides farming, Donovan was a baseball and hockey coach, member of the Lions Club and drove the bus when local teams needed a hand. Loree had similar qualities. Flying was his passion, as was farming on land he owned near both Nanton and Mossleigh. “Denny enjoyed everybody,” said Beagle, who is also a private pilot. “He was a people person. They were great guys, both of them.” Beagle shakes his head as he ponders the crash. He has since checked the statistics for midair collisions — 29 in the last 50 years. Odds against such an accident are astronomical, he said. Loree’s plane took off that fateful day from the small grass strip just outside P & H. Bexte recalled that one of the two men suggested they stop for coffee but then decided against it. Those 10 minutes would have made all the difference, he said, with tears in his eyes. The local Lions Club plans to set up a trust fund for Donovan’s other three children: Scott, 10, Drew, 6, and Charlotte, 4. The club will also help Donovan’s wife, Bobby, with seed and sod for the area around their recently built farm home. Back in the field, Ken Weber wrestled the auger beneath another truckload of fertilizer and thought about lost friends. “We own a piece of equipment together,” he said about Donovan. “He’s always been a good neighbour. You needed help, he was there. I’m glad to be able to help today.” Loree also had farmland adjoining Weber’s. “It was tough yesterday to see his outfit going,” said Weber, noting Loree’s cousin came out to finish seeding one field. Loree leaves behind his wife, Joan, and son, Mackenzie. Reese Risdon of Strathmore was in the field with his seeder, having just finished his own seeding and helping out another farmer. “Eric was just the kind of guy who would do this for someone else,” Risdon said.
James Palin, left, and Reese Risdon load canola into Risdon’s seeder. The two, along with other friends and neighbours of Eric Donovan, his son, Wade, and Denny Loree, who were killed in a May 12 plane crash, seeded 600 acres of canola on Donovan’s land near Mossleigh, Alta., May 16.
Denny would be the first guy to give you a hand. That’s why he was with Eric, flying him, because Eric needed a hand and that’s who Denny was. IAN DONOVAN COUSIN
Gregg Percival, who helped organize the bee along with Donovan’s cousin, Ian, attended college at the same time as Loree. “I don’t think you could ask for a nicer guy. He did it all and he did it all right,” as both a farmer and a pilot, said Percival. Ian Donovan farmed with Eric until about eight years ago. The two men were close, sometimes mistaken for brothers. The new MLA for Little Bow, who was sworn into office May 15, said he was not surprised at the turnout for the seeding bee. “That’s just what the community is here,” he said. “It’s kind of a way of farmers giving flowers. You don’t know what else to do, other than you’ve got the equipment and you know how to get in, and it’s just one less thing for his wife to worry about.” Ian Donovan’s voice grows husky as he talks about his cousin and his friend. “Denny would be the first guy to give you a hand. That’s why he was with Eric, flying him, because Eric needed a hand and that’s who Denny was.” Loree’s memorial ser vice was scheduled for May 17 at Nanton’s Lancaster Museum, a fitting venue for a pilot. Donovan’s service was held May 18 in Aldersyde.
LEFT: Ian Donovan prepares to help finish seeding his cousin’s canola crop. He is the Wildrose MLA for Little Bow and organized the seeding bee. BELOW: Six air seeders, two semi trucks and numerous tandems were put to work. | BARB GLEN PHOTOS
MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
IN THE HEAT OF THE ACTION
MEAT INSPECTION | NEW REGULATIONS
Ag groups pleased with new meat inspection rules BY BARB GLEN LETHBRIDGE BUREAU
Dave Johnstone of Provost and District Fire and Rescue spreads water while Ed Raab seeds wheat in his field. Strong winds fanned a brush pile that spread to the field Raab was planting May 11. | WILLIAM DEKAY PHOTO
UNITED NATIONS FOOD REPORT | DOMESTIC HUMAN RIGHTS
UN slams Canada’s food policy Hunger in the midst of plenty | UN official says Canada will face ‘tough questions’ BY BARRY WILSON OTTAWA BUREAU
The United Nations’ top official on food security issues has condemned Canada for pursuing an export-oriented agricultural policy while millions of Canadians do not have secure access to food. Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, told a May 16 Ottawa news conference that after more than a week in Canada, he concluded the country has a serious human rights problem that it will have to answer for at the UN. He spent his time in Canada meeting food security advocates, local food supporters, First Nations leaders, food bank officials and the National Farmers Union. De Schutter called for Canada to develop a national food strategy under the leadership of the health minister that emphasizes local food, smaller farms and more emphasis on feeding Canada’s hungry. He criticized Canadian minimum wage, tax and social policy for favouring the rich over the poor. As well, he noted that as many as 900,000 Canadian families use food banks every year. “This is a country where inequalities are increasing and in which the top 10 percent of the population are 10 times more affluent on average than the bottom 10 percent,” said the Belgian academic and local food advocate. “This is a country in which taxes and benefits reduce inequality much less than in most (rich) countries. Today we have a large number of Canadians who are unacceptably too poor to feed themselves decently.” Canada is the first developed country De Schutter has visited to prepare a report dur-
We consider ourselves the food basket of the world but we can’t feed ourselves. MALCOLM ALLEN NDP AGRICULTURE CRITIC
ing his four years on the job. He said he will present his report to the UN later this year, where it will be reviewed by various human rights committees that monitor agreements Canada has signed. “Canada shall face some tough questions, I’m expecting, at the end of 2012 or early 2013 in that context.” Canadian local food advocates quickly embraced the UN report as a call to action for a national food strategy that addresses domestic poverty and hunger. “We need a food policy that says no one goes hungry,” Food Secure Canada executive director Diana Bronson told a May 16 news conference. “We live in Canada. Kids should not be going to school hungry. It’s as simple as that.” Opposition agriculture critic Malcolm Allen quickly embraced the report as a call for a national food strategy based on local needs. “We consider ourselves the food basket of the world but we can’t feed ourselves,” said the NDP MP. Conservative government ministers were quick to dismiss the validity of the report. Immigration minister Jason Kenney said De Schutter should butt out and visit countries where there is real starvation. Health minister Leona Aglukkag, the only
minister to meet the UN envoy, said his recommendations on how to improve food availability in aboriginal and Innu communities were out of bounds. “What I said yesterday was that I was very insulted by the UN rapporteur coming to Canada to study aboriginal people, Inuit, and not come to the Arctic, and to write a report on what is best for me as an aboriginal person from Canada’s Arctic is insulting,” she said in the House of Commons May 17. De Schutter said part of the problem is Canada’s agriculture and trade promotion policies of the past 50 years. “I have heard many concerns about the way agriculture policies have been shaped since the Second World War,” he told the Ottawa news conference. “The result of the shifts that have been encouraged over the years has been that more efforts have gone into promoting export agriculture and boosting the ability of Canada to be competitive on global markets … but much less energy has been put into promoting local food systems,” he said. Local food systems are good, he added, because they contribute to healthy communities, help small farmers and the environment and give urban consumers access to healthy food choices.
Canadians will not be eating road kill if proposed new meat inspection regulations are implemented, government and industry sources say. Federal NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen raised the specter of road kill consumption in a May 15 news release. He suggested plans to allow on-farm slaughter of food animals, carcass transport to processing facilities and then entry into the food chain would be dangerous to human health. “First the Conservatives will let private inspectors monitor meat, and now they’re essentially allowing road kill-ready meat into the food supply,” Allen said in an NDP release. Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz called the remarks “wildly irresponsible.” The exchange prompted several agriculture groups to also respond. “It’s not true,” said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association He said in a May 17 interview that the proposed change would provide another option to livestock producers faced with losses from an injured or wild animal whose condition would not affect meat quality. “We just see it as a win-win scenario. It’s a win in terms of treating the animal properly and not transporting an injured animal. It’s certainly an improvement for the farmer if they choose that that’s the option that works best for their situation, and would have zero impact on food safety.” He said the new regulation would apply in rare cases of on-farm animal injury or distress, and such animals would have to be inspected by a veterinarian before death to ensure food safety. “It certainly isn’t a way to circumvent anything. Your preference certainly would be to send a live, healthy animal for regular slaughter as opposed to dealing in this very inefficient way.” Wally Smith, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said his group also favours the regulatory change, which complies with the dairy industry’s new code of practice. “There are instances where, in rare and exceptional cases, I think this policy change would serve us well,” Smith said. He cited a case where a B.C. dairy barn collapsed under snow, resulting in numerous animals too injured to humanely transport yet viable for beef. “This actually streamlines that kind of situation.” The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also issued a news release supporting the proposed changes. However, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents federal veterinarians working for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said the regulatory changes would risk food safety at the same time as budget-cutting measures will see the loss of CFIA veterinarians and food inspectors. “With these changes, there is a greater risk that diseased animals will enter the food chain without timely examination by independent government professionals who are specifically trained for this job,” said PIPSC president Gary Corbett. He said private veterinarians may be predisposed to approve an animal owned by the producer who pays them. As well, they do not have the specialized training of CFIA inspectors. As well, he said animals killed on a farm could be transported up to two hours, without refrigeration, to a processing plant. Masswohl said he had no information on rule change proposals regarding refrigeration but expected there will be opportunity to clarify details before changes are made. “We’re certainly supportive of having a reasoned, fact-based policy debate on this or any other issue,” said Masswohl.
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
RESEARCH | BUDGET CUTS
Budget cuts chop spray research funds BY RON LYSENG WINNIPEG BUREAU
Agriculture Canada appears ready to cut the pesticide application technology program at its research centre in Saskatoon. Sources within the department have indicated that the program and manager Tom Wolf’s position would be eliminated “on or about April 11,” but no official announcement had been made as of May 17. The news comes as the federal government launches comprehensive budget cutting to reduce the deficit. “Farmers across Canada are divided on many issues in agriculture, but the one issue we all agree on being important is research,” Grain Growers of Canada president Stephen Vandervalk said in a news release. “One example of going the wrong direction is the apparent elimination of (the) pesticide application technology expert. We (farmers) go over our fields pre-season, once or twice in season, and sometimes post-season, making spraying one of our most labour intensive and costly operations on our farm. “There is tremendous support from farmers for this important research work. Not only does it save us money but helps us ensure we are not over applying pesticides in an era when the environment is such a sensitive topic.” Gary McCrea, a farmer and owner of Ag Shield Manufacturing in Benito Man., was blunt in his assessment of the cut. “I think it’s a dumb move. As more producers switch to zero till and direct seeding, spraying becomes more critical,” said McCrea. “Tom is a good resource for producers and his group produces top quality work. They help farmers do their spraying properly, which is critical because we rely on chemicals to protect our crops. “It’s one thing to have the best application technology, but you have to know how to use it. That’s where Tom really excelled.” Bob Wyma, sales manager for Wilger Industries, was caught by surprise when informed of the move. “Can you tell me why there has been no statement or explanation? We’ve heard absolutely nothing,” he said. “This doesn’t affect just Tom and his staff. This is going to have a tremendous impact on farmers. There has been extremely high uptake on the information he’s provided over the years.” Wyma said Wolf would test new technology and provide a non-partisan, third-party evaluation. “That has been very important for all of us in providing the best possible spray technology for producers.” Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said in an e-mail that his department is changing the way it does business so it can better match what the industry needs to address challenges and maximize opportunities. “We will be focusing on areas where we can have the greatest impact for the sector and support the best balance in the roles for the public and private sectors,” he said. “The decision to move out of spray technology is one example of where industry can take on leadership in applied agricultural research.”
Robert Cake unloads anhydrous ammonia at the Crop Production Services facility near Wakaw, Sask., May 16. Cake is a seasonal driver for Westcan and will be heading back to his Newfoundland home next month. | WILLIAM DEKAY PHOTO
FEDERAL CUTBACKS | SHELTER BELT CENTRE
Buyers eye shelter belt centre Indian Head centre for sale | Interested parties visit while government looks for agreement BY KAREN BRIERE REGINA BUREAU
INDIAN HEAD, Sask. — Four interested parties have already arranged to visit the Prairie Shelterbelt Centre in Indian Head as the federal government looks for a buyer for the tree production and distribution facility. Ottawa wants a purchase agreement or partnership in place by Aug. 31. Henry de Gooijer, manager of Agriculture Canada’s Agroforestry Development Centre, told a May 16 public meeting attended by about 175 people that interest has come from commercial nurseries, First Nations and non-profit organizations. An employee buying group is another possibility. Others, which he described as “tire kickers and even a few vultures,” have also had questions about the site. De Gooijer said the site visits will give potential purchasers a better understanding of the facilities but wouldn’t provide specific details. “Three of those groups or parties are at the stage of initiating analysis of a business case,” he said. All are looking at a cost-recovery or profit model. The centre has provided free trees to farmers and rural landowners for 111 years. It costs the federal government $3 million annually, including salaries. Assistant deputy minister Jamshed Merchant said the money is only a small part of Treasur y Board’s decision. The agriculture department was
The federal government says the time is right to step out of the business of providing trees to farmers and will look to private industry to continue operations of its shelter belt centre. | FILE PHOTO asked to cut 10 percent of its overall budget, or about $250 million per year, as part of a government-wide effort to cut the federal deficit. It will maintain agroforestry research at Indian Head. Merchant said the government, which wants to decrease its footprint, looked at whether the shelter belt program was an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. “The time is right for the federal government to step out of the business of providing free trees,” he told
the meeting. “This decision is not at all based on the quality of work being done.” Providing trees was critical during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, said Merchant, who began his career as a soil conservationist. The free trees were incentive for farmers to spend the time and money to establish them and keep them growing. “Over time it became a real question: is this an appropriate role for the government of Canada to be in?” he said.
Lorne Scott, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Indian Head and a former provincial environment minister, said government should have looked beyond economics to the other benefits of shelter belts. For example, species at risk such as ferruginous hawks use the trees. “If we look at birds as a whole, two out of three species are declining and three out of four here on the Prairies are declining,” he said. Carbon sequestration, wildlife plantings and controlling erosion are other important benefits of trees. “This is a broad based public service that can only be delivered by the government,” he said to loud applause from the crowd. Bruce Neill, a former shelterbelt centre manager, said the government should have looked at a compromise rather than cut the centre completely. He said 80 families have been affected. “The decision has been made to terminate (the centre) and to take all the savings out of this one area,” he said. Merchant said it isn’t yet known if the agroforestry staff will remain at the location south of the TransCanada Highway or move to the Indian Head Experimental Farm north of the highway at the town’s eastern boundary. The federal public works department will look after the sale of the buildings, land, equipment and other assets. The federal government will stop funding and operating the shelter by Dec. 31, 2013, regardless of whether a buyer or partner is found by the deadline.
MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
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WHEAT | CONTRACTING
Wheat risk management on hold Higher prices possible as weather becomes an issue BY ED WHITE WINNIPEG BUREAU
Kansas farmers wonder what yields they will see when the winter wheat harvest begins in the next week or two. Hot, dry, windy weather is starving the crop of moisture as its heads fill. Dry weather in southern Russia and parts of Australia are also a concern. | FILE PHOTO DROUGHT | U.S. WHEAT YIELDS
Heat, wind scorches Kansas crop Rain below average | Kansas winter wheat crop dying as heat, high winds sap soil moisture CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — The promise of a bumper U.S. hard red winter wheat crop is eroding by the hour as heat and high winds sap soil of needed moisture. Harvest is slated to begin in Kansas late this month, about three weeks earlier than normal. However, fields where once bountiful bushels were predicted now contain only shriveled kernels on parched plants. “A lot of the wheat that looked like 60 bushel (an acre) wheat looks like maybe 20 (bu. per acre) now,” said Dean Stoskopf, a grower in central Kansas. “The wheat is literally dying. It’s turning colours. It is turn-
ing white instead of that nice golden tan.” An industry tour of Kansas the first week of May pegged the state’s average yield at a record 49.1 bu. per acre and put the crop at 403.7 million bu. On May 10, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged Kansas winter wheat production at 387 million bu. However, farmers now say the state will be lucky to harvest 325 to 350 million bu. Some fields are so poor that farmers are cutting them for hay and giving up on a grain harvest, wheat experts said. Kansas state climatologist Mary
Knapp said hot and windy conditions were hitting the wheat at a particularly bad time, when normally mild temperatures and good moisture help wheat heads plump up with grain. Temperatures rose to 35 C May 16 and were 27 to 32 C May 17. High winds were making conditions worse. Rainfall so far this month has been only seven millimetres, about 12 percent of normal, according to Knapp. “A lot of the winter wheat producers are in a real critical point of development,” said Knapp. Despite the disappointment,
farmers still see this year’s harvest better than last summer’s droughthit crop that tallied a mere 276.5 million bu.
KANSAS FARMERS WILL BE LUCKY TO HARVEST
325-350 MILLION BUSHELS OF HARD RED WINTER WHEAT
Producers haven’t hedged most of this year’s wheat and durum crop, but analysts and market advisers aren’t too worried. They think wheat prices are likely to rise in coming months, and farmers who wanted to hedge have probably already done so. “We’re holding off on any new crop contracting, but we’ve got our clients where we need them to be,” said Derek Squair of Agri-Trend Marketing. “We feel things are pretty volatile now, especially on the quality side, and the basis is still pretty wide.” The wheat contracting system in Western Canada is still primitive, with most grain elevator contracts apparently directly connected to individual commercial sales. If a company makes a sale, it will offer farmers contract prices to get the required amount, quality and protein levels, but it will not want to take any more. Companies will also reduce prices to discourage unwanted deliveries. “If they get any sort of volume, their price will drop by 50 cents over night,” said Squair. “It’s not very liquid, and once they’re full they don’t want any more.” These contracts are priced relative to the price on the day when the company made the sale to the end user. That contract price might vary little over a number of days despite the daily variations of the futures market. Brenda Tjaden Lepp of FarmLink Marketing Solutions has noticed the same phenomenon. “On any given day, (grain companies are) either in the market or not in the market, depending on their position,” said Tjaden Lepp. “All this stuff is going to change every day.” That means farmers need to monitor elevator bids daily if they are thinking of selling. Prices can rise or fall quickly and don’t necessarily match the futures price. Charlie Pearson of Alberta Agriculture said most grain companies are offering contracts for specified grades and protein levels of wheat, but farmers can also try to negotiate prices for what they are most likely to produce. “There may be a bit of room for negotiation,” said Pearson. “It may not be the official specificaCONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
WEATHER | WORLD PRODUCTION
Dry weather saps world wheat prospects Highs are in the low 30s C and the two week forecast is for below normal rainfall.
BRENDA TJADEN LEPP FARMLINK MARKETING SOLUTIONS
the reduced supply in the Black Sea area with wheat from central Russia. Australia
Russia and Ukraine tion, but at least some companies might look at some contracts for a different grade than their posted one.” Tjaden Lepp said she has backed off selling wheat because most of her clients sold about 25 percent during the winter at higher prices. As well, there is substantial production risk now and there is a good chance of a rally this summer. “We’ve been keeping back another bullet ahead of harvest in case we get a rally,” she said. Squair said his company had earlier recommended using put options if farmers wanted to move higher than 25 percent sold, which was attractive when prices were higher during the winter. At the time, prices were offering a net margin of $70 per acre, so farmers could buy a put option equivalent to about $10 per acre that would protect them from a slide in prices but wouldn’t expose them to production risk. “Let’s spend $10 of that today on a put option and protect $60 of net margin and go to 50 percent sold,” Squair said about his winter recommendations. Tjaden Lepp and Squair are now recommending that farmers wait and see. Weather worries in Kansas and Russia are providing reason to be mildly bullish. FOR A RELATED STORY, SEE PAGE 8
ry weather is becoming a concern in several parts of the world. It was a getting a little dry in northern Iowa as this was written May 18, and private forecaster T-Storm Weather LLC was forecasting above normal temperatures for Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, the heartland of the U.S. Midwest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast of a national average of 166 bushels per acre for corn is a record and well above the normal trend. The USDA noted the benefits of early seeding to yield prospects, but that optimistic forecast will have to be reined in if the heat and dryness continue into June and July. However, the main action last week was in wheat markets. Chicago December wheat futures rose 14 percent on dry weather in key production regions, the biggest weekly gain in 16 years. That strength was made more impressive by the fact that the anxiety over the eurozone’s debt problems pressured most other commodities lower. However, we must remember it is only May, which is a little early to be writing off crops, even winter seeded ones. Still, the wheat market looks better than it did a few weeks ago.
Kansas The winter wheat crop has headed and is turning colour, three weeks ahead of normal because of an unusually warm spring. Just a couple of weeks ago an industry tour of the state presented an optimistic yield forecast, but it has been dry since then and the condition has deteriorated. The tour two weeks ago pegged the Kansas crop at 11 million tonnes, but now estimates are falling to 8.8 to 9.5 million tonnes.
Areas around the Black Sea have suffered from hot, dry weather in recent weeks. Ukraine’s production had already suffered because of weather problems in the winter, and Bloomberg reports that the recent hot, dry weather threatens 30 percent of the remaining crop. The USDA already forecasts that Ukraine will produce only 13 million tonnes of wheat in the new crop year compared to a bumper 22.1 million in 2011-12. Ukraine received some rain last week, but it didn’t reach into Russia. Russia’s Institute for Agricultural Market Studies cut its all-crop outlook to 91 million tonnes from 93 million because of the wheat crop’s reduction to 54 million from 56 million tonnes. A Russian government spokesperson said it would likely cut its outlook in a week or so. The USDA’s current forecast for Russian wheat production is 56 million tonnes, similar to last year’s crop. However, drought reduced the crop to 41.5 million tonnes in 2010-11. That drought was widespread, reaching into Siberia. This year’s dryness is focused in the area east of the Black Sea, which traditionally provides most of the country’s exports. Analysis group SovEcon also noted that subsidized rail rates that helped move grain west from Siberia will end in June, making it difficult to backfill
Farmers Down Under are seeding their winter crop. April moisture in Western Australia, the country’s largest wheat producer, was below normal and May has also been dry. A spokesperson with CBH, the state’s largest grain handler, told Bloomberg that farmers will wait for showers before resuming seeding. Acreage could be reduced if rain does not come or arrives too late. Meanwhile, the Australian Oilseeds Federation said that a lack of rain is also a problem on the east side of the country, in New South Wales and Victoria. Canola emergence is spotty. This caused the federation to take a conservative view of 2012 canola production, forecasting it at 2.965 million tonnes, down from last year’s 3.185 million despite an increase in seeded area. The federation is more pessimistic than other forecasters. The USDA pegged Australian canola output at a record 3.25 million tonnes, while the Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees 3.2 million tonnes. Some weather forecasters believe the current neutral situation in the Pacific Ocean will rapidly shift into an El Nino, and that usually brings dry weather to Australia. Follow D’Arce McMillan on Twitter @darcemcmillan.
OILSEEDS | MARKET
Meal demand, tight supply supports oilseed prices Corn oil supply rising | Shifts in grain supply increase meal demand BY SEAN PRATT SASKATOON NEWSROOM
Soybean prices that for years were propped up by strong global oilseed demand are now deriving strength from another commodity. “The meal market is just on fire,” said Pete Meyer, agricultural commodities analyst with PIRA Energy Group. High corn prices and prospects of a short wheat crop in Russia and other Black Sea countries is creating huge demand for the feed ingredient and the soybeans from which it is made. “The meal component of beans is driving this thing nuts. There are guys out there that just can’t get enough meal,” Meyer said. That makes him optimistic that soybean prices could move higher than $15 per bushel, lending continued strength to canola and other oilseeds. However, his optimism is dampened when he looks at the spread between soy oil and soy meal prices. “There just isn’t the demand out there for the oil as much as there is for the feed content of a crushed bean,” he said.
With less feed wheat available, livestock producers are using more soybean meal in their rations. | FILE PHOTO “It doesn’t seem like the consumer demand for vegetable oil is there like it was two years ago.” He can’t figure out what’s behind the slumping demand for soy oil, other than the surging popularity of corn oil. Meyer said the chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods recently told him that feeding distillers grain to livestock is a challenge. That has prompted corn ethanol manufacturers to invest in technol-
ogy that squeezes oil out of the DD Gs, which has become an extremely profitable venture. “Corn oil is making the rounds here pretty hard in the U.S. and you’re going to see more and more of that,” said Meyer. Some ethanol plants are making a 300 percent return on their investment in one year. “These guys are going to be all over it,” he said. Meyer said soybean supplies are
going to be tight until the next South American harvest next spring. “The crop in Brazil and Argentina is definitely smaller than what people are saying and they’re definitely going to run out,” he said. Drew Burke, chief financial officer of Bunge, confirmed that during a presentation he gave to investors attending BMO Capital Markets’ 2012 Farm to Market Conference. He believes Brazil only has enough product to crush into oil and export as seed until August, while it normally would supply markets until well into the U.S. harvest. “That means the U.S. is going to have to pick up a big part of the world demand starting in the October period through March.” The United States will then sell out of product toward the end of March, before the South American harvest in April-May. Supply is going to be tight, which is why the world needs big soybean crops from Brazil and Argentina in 2012-13. Burke is confident that will happen. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting 55 million tonnes of production in Argentina and another 78 million tonnes in Brazil for a total of 133 million tonnes, 24 percent higher than the estimate for the 2011-12 crop. Meyer has spoken to Brazilian
farmers who intend to plant soybeans from lot line to lot line this fall. “There is no question that there’s going to be big beans,” he said.
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MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
FERTILIZER | POTASH
Canadian potash may ease China corn shortage PotashCorp. | Company expects both China and India to increase potash imports BY SEAN PRATT SASKATOON NEWSROOM
The growing gap between China’s corn needs and its domestic production could be narrowed if growers applied more potash, says PotashCorp. And that appears to be happening. China imported 1.9 million tonnes of the nutrient during the first quarter of 2012, and sales have been brisk in the second quarter. “The Chinese know they need to catch up after a few years of falling behind on their potash application,” PotashCorp. president Bill Doyle told investors attending BMO Capital Markets’ 2012 Farm to Market Conference. Chinese farmers have been applying significant amounts of nitrogen to their corn crops but skimping on potash. Doyle said there is a big opportunity for China to boost yields for a key commodity that is increasingly in short supply. One of the burning questions in the grain industry is how much corn China will import in 2012-13. That is expected to have a big impact on corn and other crop prices. Industry estimates range from a low of two million tonnes to a high of 12.5 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting seven million tonnes, up from five million tonnes in 2011-12. China’s future corn imports could depend on its potash imports. Doyle anticipates continued good movement of the commodity to China during the second half of 2012 as growers address soil nutrient deficiencies. “Are they going to import potash or are they going to import corn? I say both,” he said. Farmers could also benefit from increased potash use in India, where Doyle said the ratio of nitrogen to potash application is out of whack. “This is one of the key reasons (India’s) yields are approximately one-quarter of those achieved in the United States,” he told investors. India’s potash purchases have dropped in each of the last two years. The country’s growers had been making progress on their nitrogento-potash ratio, getting it down as low
as 4.7 to one in 2010. Last year the ratio jumped to higher than six to one, primarily because of a delay in potash contract negotiations. This year Doyle estimates it will fall somewhere in the range of 6.5 to 6.8 to one. “That’s going to affect yields in India,” he said. A short crop would put more inflationary pressure on food prices, which is a politically sensitive issue in India. “It’s a lot more efficient to import potash than it is to import food,” said Doyle. India is the main reason why global potash consumption has dropped below the long-term trend of three percent annual growth during the last couple of years. “We think 2013 is going to be a big rebound year in potash in India because they just can’t keep doing what they’re doing, and they know that,” he said. Another factor behind slumping potash sales is the “destocking” practices of dealers, who are increasingly afraid of getting caught holding high-priced product if markets drop. Dealers acted cautiously in early 2012, reducing their inventories to the point that it caused a North American fertilizer shortage. “Demand has picked up significantly in the second quarter and we expect that will carry into the second half of the year,” said Doyle. He believes there will be plenty of fall demand for potash in North America, despite a U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast of a record 14.8 million tonne corn crop in 201213 based on yields of 166 bushels per acre. A large corn crop could decrease prices, which could in turn reduce corn acres next year and lower demand for potash. “I think the USDA has this set up for perfection at the moment,” said Doyle. The fortunes of the U.S. corn crop depend heavily on June rain. Doyle said the USDA predicted an average yield of 164 bu. in 2010, but it came in at 152 bu. Even if U.S. growers har vest a record crop and corn prices fall to $4
PotashCorp. president Bill Doyle says it is more efficient to import potash than import food, so the company is anticipating a rebound in demand. | FILE PHOTO per bu., he said, it would still be profitable for growers to spend money on fertilizer for next year’s crop. Doyle anticipates a rebound in global potash demand starting next year. History shows growth may even exceed the trend line for the next few years as growers compensate for two years of nutrient neglect. PotashCorp. has been gearing up for increased global food and fertilizer demand. In 2003, it embarked on a massive $9.7 billion expansion and debottlenecking project at all six of its Canadian potash mines. Three-quarters of the capital has been spent and five of the nine projects are complete. Most of the projects will be complete by the end of the year. Operational capacity will balloon to 17.1 million tonnes of annual potash production, up from 10.11 million tonnes when the project started. Doyle has heard of 62 other potential potash mine projects considered around the world. “We see no more than a handful of those coming to being,” he said. He is tired of hearing about new potash mines that will be up and running by 2015. “It is humorous to me at the very least because it’s just not possible.” Doyle said brownfield, or expansion, projects typically take more than seven years to complete, while greenfield, or new mine, construc-
IMPORT CORN OR POTASH? China’s corn imports exploded the past two years. Traditionally a corn exporter, the Asian giant is having trouble keeping up with demand despite rising domestic production. The U.S. Grains Council believes there is potential for Chinese corn imports to grow to 10 to 30 million tonnes over the next several years. However, the need to import might be offset if China can increase its corn yields. Potash Corp. notes China’s nitrogen to potash consumption ratio is well off the the level needed for optimum yields. If China raised potash application levels to scientifically recommended rates, it would double or triple the country’s potash needs. Potash Corp. suggests it is cheaper to import potash than corn. China’s potash growth potential (million tonnes, KCl equivalent) 30
China’s corn imports (000 tonnes) 2003/04 2 2004/05 2
0 #2 #3 potential*
* based on Fertecon nitrogen consumption forecast in 2020
Potential forecasts: #1 - N:K ratio 5:1; #2 - N:K ratio 3:1; #3 - N:K ratio 2:1
Source: Fertecon, Potash Corp.; USDA | MICHELLE HOULDEN GRAPHIC
tion is far more daunting. It takes three years just to put a shaft in the ground. “We don’t see a lot of these talkedabout projects coming to fruition,” he told investors. Another factor working against new projects is Saskatchewan’s
superheated economy. The price of steel, concrete, copper and labour are all on the rise. “Between 2013 and 2015, Western Canada is going to have a big labour crunch. You’re going to see a lot of inflation on the labour side,” said Doyle.
’90 (f)= forecast
’00 ’10(f) #1
WHEAT | MARKETS
New crop buying should soon breathe life into ICE wheat futures BY ED WHITE WINNIPEG BUREAU
Canada’s wheat market isn’t necessarily in trouble, says a senior Canadian grain company executive. New crop wheat contracting is sluggish and the use of ICE Futures Canada’s spring wheat and durum contracts is negligible, but Keith Bruch, vice-president of operations at Paterson GlobalFoods, said it’s more a reflection of commercial conditions that are on the verge of
changing. “It’s been relatively quiet,” Bruch said. “We’ve got buyers who are bearish and waiting for the crop to develop and values to develop.” Bruch said most overseas wheat and durum buyers purchase only two to three months before they need supplies to arrive, so most commercial activity has been with old crop supplies. New Japanese wheat tenders will soon be announced, which will
begin the real new crop commercial marketing year. “That’s when we’ll see the true open market start to trade,” said Bruch. Canadian grain companies generally haven’t been taking long or short positions on new crop wheat, so they have not been aggressively buying or selling wheat w ithout making matching buys or sells on the other side. Wheat values are twitchy and no one wants to be overexposed. “The market’s very volatile. The
protein values are very volatile. The spreads are volatile. So there’s considerable risk with taking sizeable positions,” said Bruch. Farmers are also antsy about locking in prices in new crop wheat and durum contracts when there are still many unanswered questions about the future of prairie grain marketing. “We have producers who are waiting for some clarity as to the crop size and quality, on grade spread values,” Bruch said. “Also, I think everybody is waiting
for arrangements between grain companies and the wheat board on pool deliveries.” As well, the lack of trading in ICE Futures Canada’s new spring wheat and durum contracts isn’t necessarily a sign that they won’t work. Without commercial activity to hedge, the basis for most trading hasn’t existed. “There hasn’t been a huge amount of action anywhere on the Canadian cash side. It’s only a small part of the Canadian crop that’s been traded, so there’s still time,” said Bruch.
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
CATTLE ON FEED
WP LIVESTOCK REPORT
FED CATTLE RISE
The U.S. cattle on feed report May 18 had a bigger April placement decline than expected. Cattle on feed May 1 were 11.482 million, down one percent from last year. The trade expected an increase of 0.3 percent. April placements fell 15 percent from a year ago versus a 12 percent average decline expected by analysts polled by Reuters. The market also expected to find support from a higher-thanexpected marketing figure of 1.815 million. The trade expected 1.778 million.
Buying for U.S. Memorial Day weekend cookouts caused hog prices to jump higher. Slow farmer deliveries also supported hog values. As well, the weaker loonie is helping prices in Canada. Iowa-southern Minnesota live hogs rose to $64 US per hundredweight May 18, up from $57.50-$58 May 11. U.S. pork carcass cut-out values were $81.48, up from $80.55 May 11. The U.S. federal weekly slaughter was estimated at 2.12 million, up from 2.09 million the previous week.
The Canadian Bison Association said grade A bulls in the desirable weight range were $3.65-$3.90 Cdn per pound hot hanging weight. Grade A heifers were $3.60-$3.90. Slaughter cows and bulls averaged $2.40-$2.60.
Beaver Hill Auction in Tofield, Alta., reported 618 sheep and 368 goats sold May 14. Wool lambs lighter than 70 lb. were $230-$255 per cwt., 70-85 lb. were $210-$240, 86-105 lb. were $170-$210 and 106 lb. and heavier were $145-$169. Wool rams were $65-$81 per cwt. Cull ewes were $56-$70 and bred ewes were $250-$320 per head. Hair lambs lighter than 70 lb. were $220-$250 per cwt., 70-85 lb. were $207-$235, 86-105 lb. were $170$210 and 106 lb. and heavier were $140-$168. Hair rams were $65-$80 per cwt. Cull ewes were $64-$79. Good kid goats lighter than 50 lb. were $235-$280. Those heavier than 50 lb. were $225-$300 per cwt. Nannies were $63-$85 per cwt. Billies were $50-$147.50. Ontario Stockyards Inc. reported 1,206 sheep and lambs and 72 goats traded May 14. All classes of sheep, lambs and goats sold actively at steady prices.
markets now trade for 17 hours. CME said it was working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to implement the new hours. The CFTC will perform a required 10-business-day review of the change. CME’s plan is a response to rival ICE’s launch of 22-hour electronic trading in five major grains. The longer hours appealed to many funds and big traders eager
for greater market access and the chance to trade on key government reports. But CME’s core agricultural constituents criticized the plan. Grain firms are worried that the expanded hours will increase volatility by keeping markets open when monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture crop reports are released early in the morning. USDA officials say they are considering whether to change the time of crop report releases.
While other commodities fell on global economic uncertainty last week, stable U.S. cut-out values and strong retail beef movement supported cattle prices. The weaker loonie helped lift Canadian prices. Canadian packers appeared eager to acquire cattle ahead of the holiday-shortened week. The Canfax fed steer average was $112.22 per hundredweight, up 63 cents, and the heifer average was $111.35, up 50 cents. Dressed sales were $188-$190 delivered. Market-ready supplies remain relatively current. Canadian cattle sold to the United States were priced on the five-state average and cash-to-grid deals. Volume sold totalled 20,952, down 19 percent from the previous week. Weekly fed exports to May 5 totalled 6,701 down 28 percent from the previous week. Larger market ready supplies coming down the pipeline will likely keep a cap on fed prices.
COWS STRONGER D1, D2 slaughter cow prices rose almost $1 per cwt. and D3 cows climbed $1.50. Non-fed volumes at auction continue to make up a significant portion of the weekly market offering. Rail prices rose slightly and traded from $150-$155 per cwt. Fleshy D4 cows saw some discounting while lean cows traded higher on good demand.
Stronger beef prices and demand for holiday cookouts lifted fed cattle prices. Butcher bull prices were up 29 cents per cwt. this week with an average price of $90.56 per cwt. Cow marketings should be steady to slightly larger for the rest of May, but strong North American grind demand will support prices.
FEEDERS SLIGHTLY STRONGER Feeder cattle prices generally rose 36 cents per cwt. Strong feed grain prices appear to have capped light stocker prices, and 500-700 pound feeders fell $1-$2. Feeders 600-700 lb. were steady, while those heavier than 700 lb. rose $1-$2.50. Auction volume was down 10 percent at 18,080 head. Weekly exports to May 5 were up 22 percent. American interest in Canadian feeders is expected to rise.
BISON UNCHANGED This cattle market information is selected from the weekly report from Canfax, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. More market information, analysis and statistics are available by becoming a Canfax subscriber by calling 403275-5110 or at www.canfax.ca.
CME on 21 hour trading
The U.S. Choice cutout rose $1 and Select climbed almost $2. The Montreal wholesale market for delivery this week was steady at $210-$212. Weekly Canadian cutouts to May 11 saw the AAA/AA spread seasonally tighten. AAA was $187.54, up $1.93 and AA was $188.14, up $3.73.
CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — CME Group says its revised plan to expand electronic trading for grain to 21 hours a day will start June 4. CME, which owns the Chicago Board of Trade, pared back its plan to 21 hours from the originally planned 22 hours in response to criticism from U.S. grain groups. It plans to close at 2 p.m. Chicago time and reopen at 5 p.m. The
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MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
Editor: Joanne Paulson Phone: 306-665-3537 | Fax: 306-934-2401 E-Mail: email@example.com
ANIMAL WELFARE | DEFENDING PRODUCTION METHODS
Producing livestock involves educating consumers
he time is long past when farmers and ranchers could write off activists working against animal agriculture as members of the lunatic fringe. Livestock producers today have largely acknowledged threats to their livelihood and ability to contribute to the food supply. Now action must follow that acknowledgement. Recent announcements by fast food companies and grocery stores show that farmer and rancher assurances to “trust us” in matters of animal handling are no longer enough to satisfy consumers who think farm animal care should be similar to pet care. That’s not a criticism of either livestock producers’ defence or consumers’ opinions. It’s simply the new reality. And it means that producers have to engage the public in conversation about animal agriculture at every possible opportunity. Think back to news coverage about McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King announcements to seek pork from farms that don’t use gestation stalls. Did it include information about the advantages of these stalls? Did producers too easily cede ground to companies that make decisions based on market share and public relations rather than animal care and welfare? U.S.-based animal agriculture advocates Kevin Murphy and Mike Smith think the livestock industry is wrongly giving up its social licence to produce food. “The day that gestation crates and battery cages disappear from barns will be only the beginning,” they wrote on the Truth in Food website. “The attack will only pivot to the next question of morality deemed unacceptably old-fashioned by HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and its moral allies.” Murphy and Smith also criticize agriculture’s reliance on science to explain and defend production practices, saying many consumers are scientifically illiterate and not interested in being educated. Telling people to educate themselves only alienates them by trivializing their
thoughts and opinions. However, science cannot and should not be ignored in any discussion about livestock production and animal welfare. New codes of practice for livestock are vital to agriculture’s ability to explain its practices and hold producers to account should they fail to provide adequate care. The content of these codes should be widely publicized, in plain language, and producers must be able to comply with and explain them. It is easy for any of us to become confused by conflicting information and misinformation. Science is the basis of animal agriculture, but on its own it won’t sway consumer opinion that’s based on the latest animal abuse video or “wellness” ads that say brown eggs from freerange hens are healthier. The discussion about animal agriculture has shifted to morals and values. The New York Times recently ran an essay contest on “why it is ethical to eat meat.” The question wouldn’t have been asked 50 years ago, when people were more closely associated with food sources and familiar with agricultural practices. The NYT contest was widely criticized, but it showed the depth of emotion that now surrounds consumer attitudes toward animal agriculture. So what is the appropriate livestock producer response to it all? It’s talk. It’s action. It’s engaging people in conversation, through social media and in print. There are physical, economic, moral and ethical reasons to produce meat and eat meat. Producers need to think about those reasons and then be prepared to explain them. Any time. All the time. “If you’re not at the table, you’re part of the meal,” says John Maaskant, former chair of Ontario Farm Animal Council. “If we don’t deal with this threat, this problem, this difficulty, our livelihoods are at stake. So it’s not like we have a choice here.” Bruce Dyck, Terry Fries, Barb Glen, D’Arce McMillan and Joanne Paulson collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.
HOME SWEET HOME | WILDLIFE RETURNS
An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language. MARTIN BUBER PHILOSOPHER
Two fox kits stick near home, a den under an old wooden bin on the Pady farm near Edenwold, Sask. They venture out when momma fox goes hunting. | CHERYL PADY PHOTO
FOOD SECURITY | CANADA GETS FAILING GRADE
Right to food a matter of government commitment to reduce poverty NATIONAL VIEW
hen a young reporter began to cover the prairie grain industry some decades ago, he was quickly introduced to a funny and accurate description. Grain was 13 percent protein and 87 percent politics. So it is with food policy these days. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, was in Canada last week
to report on and condemn the dismal and embarrassing fact that in a country as cash and food rich as Canada, as many as three million struggle to have access to adequate nutritious food. The Conservative government was quick to dismiss the Belgian’s visit, weighted as it was to meetings with local food advocates, small farm representatives, food bank executives and poor remote First Nations communities, as a political visit intended to fulfill a pre-determined agenda. To his credit, De Schutter quickly and happily confirmed the political nature of his decision to make Canada the first developed nation to be investigated. “Of course the right to food is about politics,” he told an Ottawa news con-
ference. “It is a matter of principle and political will.” Indeed, that is true. While poverty is relative and hunger is a complex issue, world governments have never made the commitment to back up their laudable promises to fight hunger with concrete plans and funding. The existence of hunger and food insecurity, while often a complicated issue, ultimately is a political decision. A war on hunger or poverty simply has never been as sexy as a war on drugs, terrorists or whatever. Later, De Schutter affirmed that his bias is toward local production and programs to help the poor receive adequate affordable food rather than agriculture that promotes exports to countries that can afford to buy it. However, he said his role was not to
condemn but to expose, hoping that Canadians will rise up when they see the evidence of food insecurity in a land of plenty. “The purpose of the mission was to provide Canada with a picture of itself,” he said. “My role is to help countries identify blank spots in public policy, areas that they would prefer to ignore because it is more comfortable to do business as usual. I am a mirror.” He expects his criticisms of Canada’s policy bias toward larger farms and an export-oriented agricultural policy will produce probing questions for Canada’s representatives at the United Nations. Undoubtedly it will and it should. De Schutter’s report was impressive, given his short time in Canada. He grasped quickly some history, the
complexity of federal-provincial relations and Canadian policy. However, his analysis would have been more credible if he had not been so much a captive of one side of the food argument — the small farm, local food, anti-Conservative side. As an example, his main farmer meeting was with the National Farmers Union and from that meeting, he included criticisms of the end of the CWB monopoly and what he said was a weakening of Canadian Grain Commission inspection standards. Of course, those changes have not yet been produced and that interpretation is just one side of the argument. Still, De Schutter’s report should get Canadians thinking about food insecurity in a nation of plenty. Sadly, it probably won’t.
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
& OPEN FORUM NEW CONSERVATIVE CWB | FIGHTING BACK
WEATHER | SUMMER
Where art thou strong and viable CWB?
Summer forecast is anyone’s guess
BY STEWART WELLS
o here we are, a little more than 60 days from the end of the orderly marketing of wheat and barley in Western Canada. When July ends, so do the marketing advantages of the real Canadian Wheat Board. Of course, those that have made careers of mindlessly bashing the board at every turn are pleased. But what about the rest of us? You know, the majority? Despite the endless hype from federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz and the long line of grain companies that pledged to play nice with a voluntary board, only one company has signed a handling agreement with the board at the time of writing. In July of last year, the farmer-led CWB sent a letter to Ritz outlining six points that we needed the government to think about if it was serious about trying to maintain some kind of voluntary board. Those six points included: • Government willingness to be the initial owner of a new entity that has a share capital structure. Under the circumstances, and in view of the short time frames, a new entity would be unable to become operational under any other ownership structure. • An appropriate exit strategy would have to be put in place to enable the government to divest its shares in a new entity in due course. • Government willingness to ensure regulated access to country and
Farmers who support the Canadian Wheat Board should fight back by supporting groups opposed to its elimination, says Friends of the CWB chair Stewart Wells. | FILE PHOTO port terminals to ensure competitively priced access to these facilities with service levels that would enable third parties to compete effectively. • Government willingness to provide a new entity regulator y authority to direct its own grain to port terminals of its choosing. Our concerns didn’t come out of thin air. They came after years of planning and looking at different options under which the CWB could continue to operate and add value for
prairie farmers. The minister’s response to the issues we raised in the points above? After a delay of several weeks, the minister rejected these issues with one sentence in a return letter saying that our issues “appear inconsistent with an open and competitive grain market.” Instead of acting responsibly, the government then went on to publicly insult the elected directors as individuals, the staff and CWB as an organization.
And, on Oct. 18, the minister illegally introduced legislation that ended any elected farmer oversight and control of the CWB. As for the minister’s creation, the Conservative Wheat Board, it is the opposite of strong and viable. The recent announcement that the new temporary board would cut its staff by more than three-quarters shows just how untrue the minister’s statements have been. No asset-less, start-up grain company is strong or viable when it has to rely 100 percent on its competitors for its day to day operations. Organizations like the Friends of the CWB, the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, the Producer Car Shippers of Canada, the former elected directors, the National Farmers Union and others are fighting back. In 2007, the Harper government tried to illegally remove barley from the jurisdiction of the CWB. The Friends of the CWB and the CWB itself forced the issue into federal court and prevailed. A peer-reviewed analysis by U.S.based economists that had access to the CWB books showed that our court action has put an extra $428 million dollars into the pockets of western Canadian farmers since 2007. We did it then and we can do it now. Don’t settle for less. Support the Friends of the CWB and settle for more. Wells is a former farmer-elected member of the C WB board and current chair of Friends of the CWB.
MARKET, PRICE VOLATILITY | INFORMATION IMPORTANT
Plan ahead, stay informed to reduce risks HURSH ON AG
t’s a volatile and unpredictable world. For agriculture, that means there’s big money to be made or lost. In recent years, grain prices have shown the ability to rise rapidly and fall back even faster, but the input side of the business is also volatile. Just look at fertilizer prices. Urea, 46-0-0, has increased by roughly $300 a tonne in the past couple months. If you waited until just before seeding to buy, you’re faced with a price tag in the $900 a tonne range. Failing to buy early has been a costly mistake this year. On some large operations, the price difference adds up to more than $100,000. The
cost of extra on-farm fertilizer storage could have been paid almost entirely by this one-time price rise. Fertilizer has long been prone to price gyrations, but a 50 percent increase just before seeding is amazing. Of course, hindsight always has perfect vision. Buying early isn’t always the best choice. In the late summer and fall of 2008, many analysts were predicting a continued rise in fertilizer prices that were already record high. If you didn’t buy now, the price was going to be even higher in a few months, if you could get any at all. Some producers bought highpriced fertilizer but didn’t lock in the correspondingly high new crop prices that were also available, particularly on canola. When grain and oilseed prices dropped, fertilizer eventually followed. Trying to be proactive and ahead of the curve proved costly if you didn’t have both sides of the equation covered. We used to think nitrogen was closely correlated to the price of natural gas, its main feedstock. In recent times, we’ve learned that
fertilizer supply and demand governs the price irrespective of manufacturing costs. To a lesser extent, this is also true for gasoline and diesel. And we should no longer take the supply of anything for granted. As a major oil producing and exporting nation, it’s logical to assume that we’ll never have a domestic petroleum shortage. However, in the past six months, diesel has sometimes been rationed at card lock stations. A diesel shortage has never been widespread at seeding or harvest, but a problem at a refinery or some other hiccup in the supply chain could leave farmers scrambling during the growing season. Despite modern communications and worldwide trade, there seems to be more shortages of the common items needed to run a farm. For instance, it can be difficult and timeconsuming to get certain sizes of farm implement tires. And it’s dangerous to assume that a particular herbicide, fungicide or inoculant is going to be readily available just when you want it. Recent years have seen product shortages of
everything from Reglone to glyphosate. It’s a global economy with every event having far-reaching ramifications. Major international companies crash and burn, nations teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and political unrest disrupts trading patterns. On top of this, superimpose natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. Traditionally, we’ve worried about grain prices too low to cover our costs of production. In the future, we may have to decipher the ramifications of crop prices that occasionally spike to dizzying heights. While that may sound like farmer utopia, sky-high grain prices cause all sorts of ripple effects that create winners and losers. The only safe prediction about the future is that volatility will continue and probably increase. Planning ahead and keeping an ear to the ground has never been more important. Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOANNE PAULSON, EDITOR
he long-range summer forecasts are coming out, like the lilacs on the trees, but I don’t know how much faith to put in them. Remember last winter’s forecast? It was supposed to be nasty, cold, brutish and long. It was actually fairly nice (unless you grow winter wheat), warm, dry and relatively short. Everyone asked, how did they get it so wrong? Turns out it was largely that the unusually high jet stream fended off Arctic air flow and La Nina did not entirely do her cooling job. Whatever it was, pretty much all the forecasts were off by a spectacular margin. So, here we go with summer forecasts, sprinkled liberally with salt. Are we awaiting a hot summer? AccuWeather came out with its Canadian forecast May 14, with half of British Columbia, all three prairie provinces, most of Ontario and the north under a big above-normal umbrella. “Based on current and past surface observations, analogs and computer model data, indications are strongest for a very warm to hot summer across the southern Prairies,” wrote forecast author Brett Anderson. If you look at Environment Canada’s temperature anomaly outlook map, about 90 percent of the country is painted bright red, signifying above normal temperatures for June through August. David Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior meteorologist, has been commenting on the upcoming summer weather even though the official forecast is not yet out. “It’s almost a crapshoot, in a way,” Phillips told The Daily Brew. “I certainly wouldn’t plan an outdoor wedding based on the seasonal forecast. This is not a done deal.” However, in late April, Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. described quite a different scenario to Western Producer reporter Sean Pratt. “I actually did a couple of studies and they both come up with the same general solution that it will not be a hot summer. There will be a tendency for cooler than usual conditions to occur,” he said. Lerner’s view is backed up by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile, the Farmer’s Almanac is calling for near normal summer rainfall (as are most forecasts) with the hottest temperatures (big surprise) in early to mid July and August and late August. So, take your pick of the forecasts. Just be sure to take it with salt.
MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
OPEN FORUM LETTERS POLICY:
Letters should be less than 300 words. Name, address and phone number must be included for verification purposes and only letters accepted for publication will be confirmed with the author.
To the Editor:
Open letters should be avoided; priority will be given to letters written exclusively for the Producer. Editors reserve the right to reject or edit any letter for clarity, brevity, legality and good taste. Cuts will be indicated by ellipsis (…) Publication of a letter does not imply endorsement by the Producer.
The April 26 column titled “Canola’s success big headache for other crops,” by Kevin Hursh, may lead one to assume that success of canola diminishes the importance of other crops grown in Saskatchewan, which is not the case. Saskatchewan farmers grow canola, as well as cereals, other oilseeds and pulse crops, relying on the success of all commodities to be profitable. Profitability results from improved agronomic practices, higher prices and genetics. It is a combination of increased profitability and recent
weather patterns in non-traditional canola grow ing areas that has expanded acres. According to crop insurance data there are few Saskatchewan farmers implementing continuous canola and although tightened rotations are occurring, four year rotations are still common in all soil zones. With respect to disease, weed and insect pressures, there is research investment in agronomy to provide farmers with the tools to reduce pest pressures and information on production risks associated with tightened rotations. Hursh emphasized the importance of levies and this is certainly the case with canola. The achievements of the canola industry are the result of for-
ward-thinking producers who built a basis for success through levies from canola grown and sold in Saskatchewan. These dollars have allowed producer organizations to fund research p ro g ra m s, p rov i d e e d u c a t i o n through extension activities and build substantial international and domestic markets for canola products. Producers have also developed strong relationships with members along the supply chain, resulting in one voice on issues that impact the entire industry. At a time when we are seeing increased prices across all agricultural commodities, increased land values and a vibrant processing sec-
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tor, we should take pride. We should be celebrating this success and realize that at the end of the day, the strength of the entire agriculture sector is based on sound practices and the inspiration and perspiration of all farmers. Brett Halstead, Chair, SaskCanola, Nokomis, Sask.
PROBLEM DITCHING To the Editor: For over seven years we have been struggling with our neighbours, our municipality and provincial government bodies to find a solution to a problem that keeps getting worse every year. And the worst part is no one seems to care or is willing to do anything to stop it. Since the summer of 2005, I have dealt with the effects of unlawful drainage and the large amount of drainage waters flooding my land. A lot of the land around our farm — marginal land full of sloughs — is being bought up and drained with heavy equipment even though this land is swampy and is only good as pasture land. My neighbours are draining the water off their land as fast as possible with no regard for what happens to anyone downstream. They have no permits, they’re not willing to discuss the repercussions of their actions, and the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority doesn’t enforce the law. These farmers are breaking the law by draining 28 quarter sections illegally on to me and they are not held accountable. Why is that? It’s illegal to drain water without a permit, so why isn’t the government putting a stop to it? I filed a complaint in the spring of 2011 with the SWA, the government department responsible for protecting water resources. They tell me it could take years before anything is done and to try and work it out with my neighbours. Last fall the heavy equipment was working again doing more drainage and SWA still did nothing. I’m losing more and more acres every year. I haven’t seeded some areas of my land in almost five years. I’m worried about all the contaminants that are arrived with the runoff due to drainage and flooding and how it will affect the three wells on my property. I’m worried about the health of my family. I know of wells in other rural municipalities that can no longer be used because of this kind of contamination…. This land has been in my family for multiple generations and the problem has never been this bad. Increased drainage has only made it worse. I’m fed up. And where’s the provincial watershed authority? They should be shutting these drainage works down. They’re illegal. All I want is for the drainage to stop; for the flooding to stop; and for these farmers to have a regard for the law that was put in place to protect the landowners in this province from dealing with the issues I have for almost a decade. I just want my farm back…. Peter and Barbara Onofreychuk, MacNutt, Sask.
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
WOLF VS. SHEEP
ADOPTION | MEDICAL RECORDS
To the Editor:
Unlocking adoption records will relieve pain, unravel mysteries
Allowing the wolf to guard the sheep would be unthinkable. For the Conservatives to close the door on public debate to genetically modified alfalfa for fear that “the mere discussion of resistance to genetically modified products will drive away industry investment” is also unthinkable. (WP, April 19, page 43) The Liberals and NDP put forward a motion for a moratorium on GM alfalfa before the last election but the minority Conservatives delayed a vote so a vote was never held. GM alfalfa has been approved for safety (eating and growing) but requires variety registration before it can be legally sold as seed in Canada. The company (Monsanto) needs to apply for variety registration and has not yet done so. Our majority Conservative government has effectively locked up the sheep, the citizens they govern, and given the wolf, industry investors, licence to do as they please. The wolf will fatten at the irreversible expense of the sheep. Recently, a motion for public debate was brought forward by a Liberal MP; the Conservative chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee adjourned a meeting before the motion was voted on. This is not democracy. The moratorium has never been place d o n t he a p p rova l of GM alfalfa. Further public debate and biotechnology study is not being allowed. The now majority Conservative government are clandestinely considering this important decision in secret. Non-partisan and non-corporately funded and controlled scientists and institutions must carry out research. Results from these unbiased scientists and studies must then be publicly debated; the scientists must not be gagged or muffled. Decisions that may have long-term negative ramifications for all of us must not be made in secret. These decisions could impact our food security, export markets as witnessed by the EU’s resistance to “low level presence of GMOs” and most devastating will be the effect on our local rural agrarian economies. What can we, as voting, thinking, caring and concerned citizens, do to ensure that democracy is honoured and served?
t hurts when officials make decisions on your behalf. Wo m e n w h o gav e b i r t h i n Homes for Unwed Mothers, shelters for unwed pregnant women that existed from the 1940s to the 1980s, had all their decisions made for them even before the child was born. Many were never allowed to see the
baby and had to sign papers giving their infants up for adoption. I remember, not only because I was one of those babies, but also because, as a new candidate for ordination in 1965, I was taken to visit one of those homes. It was with condescending pride the director told us about the home’s policy. “It is best for everyone,” she declared. As a teenager, I wanted to find out about my family history but was told all those records were destroyed. Can you imagine a government agency destroying records? Later, a friend knowledgeable in the workings of children’s welfare ways told me bluntly, “your (adoption) parents were very good to you. That’s all you need to know.”
I was then in my 30s. How gullible of us to simply absorb the information government officials gave us in those days. It was a slick way of covering for families embarrassed over what they called illegitimate births. Without any desire to judge my adoptive parents, I wanted to learn
J. L. Chalmers, Claresholm, Alta.
WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? Is there an issue that has you fired up? A viewpoint you disagree with? Write a letter to the Editor. We want to hear your opinion.
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about my own history. What medical things should I know? Was there anyone who looked like me, or sounded like me? Could I begin to understand my genetic makeup? It took years of sleuthing before I could put the story together. I finally found siblings who gave me a picture and memento of my mother. I began to understand my craving for Ukrainian sausage and the beauty I saw in Ukrainian embroidery. When words excuse the truth, too many people get hurt. The fact that my mother could never talk about her first pregnancy speaks to her pain. Joyce Sasse writes for the Canadian Rural Church Network at www.canadian ruralchurch.net.
MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
FEDERAL ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE | PRODUCER INPUT
Environmental protection has cost: ranchers, farmers Conservation plan | Fair compensation sought for conservation measures BY BARBARA DUCKWORTH CALGARY BUREAU
Producers attending a recent meeting of the federal government’s e nv i ro n m e n t c o m m i t t e e s a i d healthy soil, air and water are important to them, but they want the public to know that taking care of those resources does not come for free. They urged members on the committee to push for fair compensation and recognition for ecosystem protection. The federal environment committee toured Canada to listen to groups that use the land. The committee met with energy company representatives and agriculture groups in Calgary May 17. The final results will be merged into recommendations on a national conservation plan that was first proposed last year in the speech from the throne. Ranchers said the symbiotic relationship between graziers and wildlife habitat protection is often overlooked. “To survive as a cattleman, you have to be a very good businessperson,” said rancher Bob Jamieson of southeastern British Columbia. “You also have to be a very good ecologist, because we are not ranchers, we are grass managers. If you don’t manage that grass, you lose the basis of your business.” “What is good for the ecosystem and the land is what is profitable for me,” added rancher Doug Sawyer from Pine Lake, Alta. Submissions by Alberta Beef Producers and the Western Stock Growers Association (WSGA) said that balance is necessary in a national conservation plan. It should preserve important natural areas and ecosystems while ensuring that balance is maintained between the benefits to society and the environment and the financial well-being of those living on the land. As well, significant land purchases or the removal of land from production should not be allowed to be a requirement for adhering to the national plan. The plan needs to clearly identify
RICH SMITH ALBERTA BEEF PRODUCERS
priorities and thresholds of areas to be conserved, said ABP manager Rich Smith. ABP also wants a fair representation of key stakeholders from government, industry and the public when setting priorities, rather than allowing narrow interest groups to have too much influence on decisions, said Smith. Rancher Norm Ward of the WSGA advised the government to involve people who live and work closely with the land when making decisions. Decisions from a centralized group or large committees are not
always workable. He said landowners assume the economic burden of protecting the environment on behalf of all Canadians, whether they are in the resource sector, agriculture or recreation. “Consumers of ecosystem services have to realize these are not free,” said Ward, who ranches near Granum, Alta. Stephen Vandervalk, Alberta vicepresident of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and president of Grain Growers of Canada, said the proposed plan must recognize that better technology and evolving scientific knowledge keep agriculture sustainable and help the environment. “To be profitable, we have to make sure the ground is better this year than it was last year.” Grain farmers have switched to minimum tillage to prevent erosion and lower use of fossil fuel. GPS and precision farming have also lowered their use of farm chemicals, he said.
RESEARCH | VALUE-ADDED
New Ag Canada technology expands markets for oats BY MARY MACARTHUR CAMROSE BUREAU
Canadian oats will be used in skin care and health products under a new licensing agreement between the federal government and an Alberta biotech company. The licensing agreement will help Ceapro use Canadian oats to create beauty and skin products. Agriculture Canada scientist William Collins discovered 25 years ago that avenanthramides are naturally occurring polyphenols with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, which explain why oatmeal baths are soothing to itchy skin.
The molecules are found only in oats and only in small quantities, which has previously limited their commercial application. The new technology increases the levels of molecules that can be extracted. “We are very excited that Agriculture Canada has determined that Ceapro has the ability to rapidly commercialize this technology,” said David Fielder, Ceapro’s chief scientific officer. “It will be a game changer for Ceapro, putting us in a position to produce the much larger volumes needed to supply new markets and attract the right partners.”
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
RANCHERS RIDE THE RANGE
FORAGE | GREEN GOLD PROJECT
Program tells alfalfa growers when to cut Status report | Samples will be taken across the province twice weekly and data posted on a website BY ROBERT ARNASON BRANDON BUREAU
Mark Pals of Caroline, Alta., and Peter Rafuse of Winfield, Alta., check fences for Sleepy Spring Ranch of Winfield. |
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A Manitoba Forage Council program that helps alfalfa growers pinpoint the optimum time to cut their crop is now underway in the province. The Green Gold project disseminates a status report on the progress and maturity of Manitoba’s alfalfa crop to forage growers, dairy farmers and cattle producers. Interested farmers can access the information on the forage council website or receive an e-mail of the reports. The reports begin after the May long weekend and usually run until t h e m i d d l e o f Ju n e, s a i d Jo h n McGregor, program co-ordinator. “We put together a summar y report, twice a week, up till first cut (of alfalfa),” he said. McGregor and two colleagues take alfalfa samples across the province and submit them to a lab for testing. Dairy farmers require alfalfa with a relative feed value (RFV) of 150 or higher, and the program is designed to identify the proper time to cut the crop to achieve that level. “Depending on the year, the time when the alfalfa reaches that optimu m s t a g e c a n v a r y ( by t h re e weeks),” McGregor said. Farmers use reports from their region to make a decision about cutting. “A farmer, by looking at our reports … can say the alfalfa will be ready for c u t t i n g at t h i s o p t i mu m s t a g e around this date,” McGregor said. “They’ll know that a week or 10 days in advance so they can start getting ready.” Beef and sheep producers can also use the information to decide when to cut their crops to achieve a particular RFV. The Green Gold program is funded by Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, FeedRite Grunthal, Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd./ Marc Hutlet Seeds Ltd., Northstar Seed Ltd., Southeastern Farm Equipment, BrettYoung, Central Testing Lab and Niverville Credit Union. Cutting remains a few weeks away, but McGregor is concerned about this year’s alfalfa crop. The crop was 10 to 11 inches tall before the May long weekend and slightly ahead of normal. However, a warm March followed by a cool April has altered plant development. “The main stems that have come up are short, but I’m seeing a lot of new growth coming in from the bottom,” he said. “Because of this … there will be a lot of leaves in there and therefore the RFV will be fairly high, given that we’ve got a short crop.” For more information, contact McGregor at email@example.com.
MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
PESTICIDE BAN | PUBLIC SUPPORT
Man. farmers worry pesticide ban will hike weed spread Control begins in urban areas | The development of invasive weeds often starts in urban gardens and spreads to farmers’ fields BY ROBERT ARNASON BRANDON BUREAU
An environmentalist lobbying for a cosmetic pesticide ban in Manitoba isn’t convinced most provincial residents want a ban on lawn and garden chemicals. Amanda Kinden, manager of the organic lawn care educational project for the Manitoba Eco-Network, said people in the province want parks, lawns and school grounds to look green and well kept. Most think herbicides are needed to achieve a tidy look, so unless there is definitive
proof that pesticides are a risk to human health, Manitobans will probably oppose a ban, Kinden said. “Probably, people would see it as more work and a problem rather than a benefit to them,” she said. In February, conservation minister Gord Mackintosh said he wanted to introduce legislation to ban cosmetic pesticides. However, he also said the province would consult with interested parties to develop a madein-Manitoba policy before implementing the ban. A spokesperson for the minister said details of the consultation process
will be announced in the next few weeks. Regulatory changes prompted by consultation could be introduced in the legislature’s fall session. Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) and the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association have denounced the proposed ban. Despite the backlash and the lack of widespread public support, Kinden said Manitoba will eventually ban cosmetic pesticides. “Given that we are one of the last provinces that doesn’t have a cosmetic pesticide ban, one will be likely.
Whether it’s next year or in a couple of years, I feel it’s going to happen.” However, many Manitoba farmers believe a ban will affect their livelihoods. As an example, producers in the Rural Municipality of MacDonald are already frustrated because communities in the RM don’t manage weeds properly, said Doug Dobrowolski, AMM president and a grain producer near Domain, Man. “Farmers that farm around the schoolyard are all mad because nobody is spraying the dandelions and the weeds are all blowing into their fields… You’re seeing this right
across the landscape.” John Johnston of Hartney, Man., president of the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association, said killing invasive species with pesticides inside communities is a key part of a larger strategy to control weeds. A lot of the urban areas can be a sinkhole for the development of invasive weeds,” he said. “Common tansy, purple loosestrife, oxeye daisy, they’re all escaped ornamentals…. So if they’re not controlled in the urban areas and the smaller communities, they quickly become a seed bank to spread (the species).”
TRADE | EXPORTS VERSUS IMPORTS
Trade deal blamed for Canada’s resource dependency BY BARRY WILSON OTTAWA BUREAU
Canada’s growing dependence on exports of raw commodities is helping develop a deepening trade deficit, critics say, despite its aggressive free trade negotiating agenda. Council of Canadians (CoC) trade campaigner Stuart Trew recently told the House of Commons international trade committee that free trade deals do not help Canada’s trade record.
He said deals that have already been signed have worsened Canada’s trade balance because they open the door for shipment of raw or barely processed agricultural and resource commodities abroad while opening up Canadian markets to higher value manufactured product imports. “Like the United States, Canada has tended to pursue trade liberalization as an end in itself,” Trew told the committee, which is studying a pot-
ential Canada-Japan trade deal. “Our export priorities are often very similar to the U.S. — grains, meat, fish, other agricultural products — and like the U.S., Canadian trade deals have focused narrowly on reinforcing existing trade patterns, which does nothing to improve the valueadded content of our exports.” He said agricultural exporters that have appeared at the committee to praise the potential of a Canada-Japan deal are “limited vested
interest groups.” Trew said the CoC wants Canada to adhere to a statement from a group of trade-skeptical U.S. organizations, including R-CALF, which calls for “balanced trade,” time limits on trade deals and excluding foreign companies from bidding on local government procurement deals. Later, Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAWU) economist Jim Stanford told MPs that trade deals have made Canada increasingly depen-
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dent on resource trade. E xporting raw resources and importing high-value processed and manufactured products is “a losing proposition for Canada in the long run,” said Stanford. Any deal with Japan would follow the same pattern. CAWU opposes a deal with Japan because it says it will lead to more Japanese cars shipped to the Canadian market but no real reciprocal opening for Canadian cars in Japan.
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
WATER | CONSERVATION
Tapping into water needs Demand rising | Ways must be found to do more with less to avoid an ecological disaster CALGARY BUREAU
Farmers are going to be pressed with the problem of how to produce more food to feed the growing world population, while also finding ways to obtain more water from renewable sources. Here, a crew assembles an irrigation system. | FILE PHOTO
About one-third of global food production depends on non-renewable ground water. That is not sustainable, said Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, during the Water in a World of Seven Billion conference in Calgary May 9-12. “We are going to have to figure out how to move to sustainable food production with renewable water resources, and that is a problem when we are running into peak constraints on non-renewable water,” he said. Fossil ground water is non-renewable. It is found in California’s Central Valley, the Ogallala Aquifer of the U.S. Great Plains, Libya, the north China plains and central India. The Ogallala serves a large food producing area, and policy makers are encouraging farmers to switch from irrigation to relying on precipitation as ground water levels are drawn down. Water can be renewed, but no more is available for the season once it has all been withdrawn from a river or lake. This is known as peak renewable water. The concept has encouraged users to reduce withdrawals without losing productivity in agriculture, power generation, industry and municipal use. Withdrawals have slowed in the last 30 years, although the human population continues to swell. The practice of water productivity, where more is done with less, has gained traction. “In the United States today, we use less water in total than we used in 1980 on a per capita basis,” Gleick said. If water withdrawal had continued at the rate scientists predicted 30 years ago, the United States would have required an additional 800 cubic kilometres to satisfy its current demand. “I don’t know where we would have found it in the United States.” Water productivity is sometimes associated with economics rather than conservation. For example, the American steel industry used 200 tons of water to make a ton of steel in the 1930s, which had fallen to 20 to 30 tons by the 1980s. By 2002, an efficient manufacturer required two to three tons of water to produce a ton of steel. This was the result of new waste
water discharge and treatment standards that were introduced in the 1980s. It was cheaper for the steel industry to generate less waste water. Farmers are also figuring out how to grow more food with less water because it cuts input costs. Nevertheless new sources of water are needed. Building a new dam or pumping another aquifer was once the answer to match demand with traditional sources of supply. If it ran out, water was transferred from elsewhere. Finding new sources of water requires creativity. Some jurisdictions in southern California treat waste water to high standards and return it to recharge ground water or restore inflow needs for local streams. It also provides surface water for industrial processes. Other jurisdictions are building large underground cisterns to capture excess rainfall for landscaping and flushing toilets. Climate change and its impact on water supply must be considered along with environmental degradation. The problem is that no one fully understands the risks to humans from ecosystem degradation. Total global water withdrawals are not well known to project future demand. Groundwater reserves are also not well known. “We don’t know where we are in terms of water use. We don’t know how much the world has and we do not know the key components of the hydrologic cycle or the world’s water balance,” said Gleick. “We don’t know how much ecosystems need for minimum maintenance.” Water conservation and research must continue. “There are human, ecological and environmental costs to doing nothing.” The human impact on the environment has far reaching effects on the water cycle. “As our use of water starts to grow as we use more and more, the economic value we get out of that water starts to grow, but the ecological value starts to drop,” Gleick said. More water may be withdrawn for industrial purposes, but the fish may start to die as stream flows drop or pollution increases. “There comes a point where the
BY BARBARA DUCKWORTH
next unit of water we use causes more harm than it provides benefit, and the total value starts to go down.”
Gleick said it is time to design modern water management policies, clarify institutional roles and update
water laws around the world. Some legislation is 100 years old and was written when needs were different.
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MAY 24, 2012 | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | THE WESTERN PRODUCER
NEWS RESEARCH | BIOFUEL
Molecular sponge absorbs toxins, produces biofuel Lee Wilson of the University of Saskatchewan’s chemistry department is creating what he calls a molecular sponge. | WILLIAM DEKAY PHOTO
University of Saskatchewan | Cost effective way to produce biofuel using polysaccharides BY WILLIAM DEKAY SASKATOON NEWSROOM
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Lee Wilson thinks he has found a cost effective way to help produce biofuel using wheat straw. In a lab at the University of Saskatchewan, the chemist and his team of graduate students have developed various types of what Wilson terms “molecular sponges.” Some sponges are designed to take specific impurities out of water, such as pesticides. Others can remove toxins from water used in the oilsands. Still another sponge separates ethanol and water to make cellulosic ethanol. “It’s a game changer for parts of the agro economy,” he said. Wilson’s sponges comprise building blocks of components in plant materials that can be isolated and further modified to form different molecular sponge materials. In other words, they can be customized for the job. “With our material, it’s a purely physical process,” he said. “We’re not adding any chemicals in. The polysaccharides that we’ve engineered are not soluble in water. It’s like a powder you sprinkle in but it doesn’t dissolve. You can regenerate that back again just by filtering it off. It’s basically a green chemistry approach.” Biomaterials like straw are known to have an affinity for chemical separations. Wilson described a “wow moment” three years ago when he recognized what the bioactive component was in wheat straw. Having access to that component in its purified form helped him build a better sorbent material. He said wheat straw has three or four to one separation ability. “Our materials had a 60 to 1 separation. It jumped up to a factor of 15 and that was the first go around. We need to optimize this. We’re hoping that if we can boost this up to 100 to 1 or more, (it) would be great, but even as it stands now is exciting,” he said. “What it means is what was previously an energy intensive chemical separation using distillation, we can now do spontaneously at room temperature.” Ron Kehrig of Enterprise Saskatchewan isn’t familiar with Wilson’s technology, but he said doing something else at the energy intensive part of the distillation stage would be good if it reduces energy consumption. “Anything that can be done to reduce the energy consumption in the dehydration of ethanol would be something that the industry would obviously take a look at very seriously and would improve the energy balance of the entire ethanol plant,” he said.
Anything that can be done to reduce the energy consumption in the dehydration of ethanol would be something that the industry would obviously take a look at very seriously and would improve the energy balance of the entire ethanol plant. RON KEHRIG ENTERPRISE SASKATCHEWAN
Wilson said the process is done without chemicals because the sponges are not dissolving in water. They stay put as a solid device. Dirty sponges can be washed and reused. Companies and government have become interested. “It’s beyond theoretical because we have results that show,” he said. “We’ve been able to pull pesticide residues out of water down to low enough levels that if you had a contaminated drinking water supply you could really use a system like this to wash out all the pesticides and have clean drinking water.” Wilson said the technology is well suited for producing cellulosic ethanol, which has traditionally relied upon distillation. While conventional techniques work, he questions whether they are economically feasible. “The commercial value of ethanol production is not all that high because the energy inputs are quite high that go along with it.” He said the advantage of molecular sponge material is that the process is done at room temperature without distillation. “My personal feeling is that’s the way to go but it requires a retooling how the refining actually happens. The nature of the industrial process has to be completely redesigned.” He said using the molecular sponge technology to make biofuel could result in a 50 to 90 percent saving in energy and perhaps more. “It’s a huge processing saving,” he said. More lab related research needs to be done, but Wilson and his team are working with engineers and companies to carry it along the chain of development. “We need to develop the process so that it can be implemented into a flow system, so there’s engineering and there’s more optimization in terms of the material development,” he said. “If we can capitalize on the success we’ve already achieved, I think you’ll probably hear some really big things in the next year or two.”
THE WESTERN PRODUCER | WWW.PRODUCER.COM | MAY 24, 2012
TOBY LOVES BRIANNE
VITERRA SALE | AGRIUMâ€™S RETAIL ACQUISITION
Agrium confident of Viterra buy 258 crop input stores | It will also get a stake in an Alberta nitrogen facility BY SEAN PRATT SASKATOON NEWSROOM
Agrium Inc. does not foresee anything getting in the way of its purchase of Viterraâ€™s retail network. â€œ(Itâ€™s) our latest attempt at growing and we will succeed in this one,â€? Agrium president Mike Wilson told investors attending BMO Capital Marketsâ€™ 2012 Farm to Market Conference. One investor asked Wilson about the Informa Economics report commissioned by the Saskatchewan government that raised concerns about Agriumâ€™s deal with Glencore International. The proposed deal would see Agrium acquire 232 of Viterraâ€™s 258 crop input stores and its 34 percent stake in an Alberta nitrogen manufacturing facility. â€œWeâ€™ve looked at (the report). We donâ€™t feel itâ€™s going to cause us any concern,â€? said Wilson. â€œThey seem to be more focused on investment and jobs staying in the province.â€? Wilson said the final decision on the dealâ€™s foreign investment and competition aspects rests with the federal government rather than the provinces. He expects Glencore to close its deal to buy Viterra in June or July. It will take a little longer for Agriumâ€™s purchase to achieve regulatory approval. â€œWeâ€™ll likely be towards the late third quarter or fourth quarter before we close,â€? said Wilson. The Viterra purchase would add to Agriumâ€™s already impressive global collection of crop input stores. The company is about four times larger than its biggest retail competitor. It has 25 percent of the Australian market, 20 percent of Argentina and less than 20 percent of the North American market. A g r i u mâ€™s re t a i l s a l e s i n 2 0 1 1 eclipsed its entire revenue stream in 2006. Its seed sales topped $1 billion for the first time and the company sold $700 million of its Loveland brand of chemicals, which represented 20 percent of chemical sales. The Loveland line accounted for 40 percent of the margins in the chemical segment. Agrium acquired 17 companies with 35 retail outlets in 2011 and added another seven companies with 14 farm centres in the first quarter of 2012. If the purchase of the Viterra assets are approved, Agrium would own 53 percent of Canadaâ€™s ammonia production capacity and 49 percent of its urea production capacity. Wilson said its nitrogen fertilizer facilities give the company a significant competitive advantage because of cheap natural gas prices in North America and the proximity to the U.S. corn crop. â€œTo get into these markets, our competitors have huge freight penalties and we capitalize on that and we set our pricing based on that.â€? Wilson expects natural gas prices to remain low for â€œquite a long timeâ€? in North America. One investor asked him how long it will be before Agrium faces increased competition from new nitrogen fertilizer projects.
Most of the worldâ€™s new manufacturing plants were built in the Middle East and North Africa over the last 10 years, but capital is definitely shifting to North America. A number of fertilizer companies are expanding or building new plants, including Agrium. Wilson thinks it will likely be five to seven years before those new facilities are built, but he said world nitrogen demand is expanding by two to three million tonnes per year. He expects demand to remain strong as long as corn remains higher than $3.50 per bushel, which provides growers with their historic average margins using todayâ€™s seed, fertilizer and chemical prices. Agrium is in the process of expanding its annual potash production to three million tonnes from two million tonnes. Wilson knows of 45 to 50 companies wanting to get into the potash business, but
the barriers to entry are huge. He anticipates that the brownfield, or expansion, projects will happen, but they shouldnâ€™t have too big an impact on potash supply and demand dynamics. Most of the greenfield, or new construction, projects will never occur, he added, because companies are â€œchokingâ€? on the massive capital costs and the length of time required to build new plants. Another investor asked Wilson about the recent trend for fertilizer dealers to completely deplete their stocks before buying new supplies. â€œItâ€™s amazing how skittish everybody is in the world,â€? said Wilson. He expects that trend to continue, which will create more volatility in the fertilizer market. Farmers and retailers are scared to take a position on fertilizer in case they are stung like many were in 2008, he added.
Toby the calf thanks her handler, Brianne Wheat, with a wet kiss, after receiving a reward of fresh grass for standing still in the chute during grooming. Wheat and her calf were preparing for 4-H Achievement Day on the Wheat farm in Vermilion, Alta. | ROBYN WHEAT PHOTO
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