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Published August 27, 2012, 09:45 AM

Canada eyes good harvest

A basic truth of agriculture is that farmers in one part of the world benefit when their peers elsewhere suffer.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

A basic truth of agriculture is that farmers in one part of the world benefit when their peers elsewhere suffer.

Glen Findlay, a Shoal Lake, Manitoba, farmer, knows that well. Shoal Lake is about 180 miles northwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“What’s happening in your country has been good for us,” he tells Agweek, referring to widespread drought in the U.S. Corn Belt.

Many farmers on the Canadian prairie are beginning to harvest what’s projected to be a record canola harvest and the country’s best wheat harvest in three years. Spring rains gave most fields on the Canadian prairies enough moisture to at least partly withstand dry conditions in the summer, farmers say.

Findlay says his crops generally received the moisture they need and that he’s optimistic about his wheat and canola harvest.

Bill Toews, who farms near Kane, Manitoba, a few miles north of the North Dakota border, has already finished his wheat. He describes yields as “quite exceptional.” Quality was very good, too, he says.

He’s harvested a few canola fields and says it’s been “a bit disappointing,” apparently because of extreme heat or moisture shortfalls or both. He thinks Canada will have a good canola crop, but perhaps not quite as good as expected a month ago.

Toews raises soybeans, too, and they are stressed by heat and inadequate moisture this summer, but it’s too early to predict how they’ll turn out, he says.

Despite the generally favorable growing season, there are pockets on the Canadian prairie where fields received too much rain.

John Sandborn, a Benito, Manitoba, farmer who operates about 200 miles north of the U.S. border, is in one of the wet areas.

“It was like a garden when we started planting,” but excess moisture later hurt crops, he says. “I wish we could have sent some of it (excess moisture) to your farmers.”

By mid-August, he’d harvested about one-third of his wheat, with disappointing yields, he says.

He’s not optimistic about his canola, either.

Sandborn is pragmatic about his relatively poor crops in a year when many Canadian farmers are faring well.

“Mother Nature always has the last at-bat,” Sandborn says. “So we take what we can get this year and get ready to do it over again next year.”

Cross-border connections

Canada traditionally is the world’s leading exporter of spring wheat, durum, canola and malting barley — all of which are prominent crops on the Northern Plains of the U.S. So what happens in Canada affects U.S. prices for those crops. Likewise, what happens in the U.S. affects Canadian prices.

For example, drought also has hurt U.S. soybean production, though not to the same extent as corn.

Soybean prices help determine canola prices, so U.S. problems should help Canadian canola growers.

In addition, some feedlots in Texas reportedly are buying Canadian wheat because of limited supplies of U.S. corn.

Virtually all of Western Canada’s excess feed grains will be sent to the U.S. this year because of reduced corn production, says John Duvenaud, who operates a grain market advisory service in Winnipeg.