Your Reading List

In Brief… – for May. 27, 2010

Another barn fire: An empty chicken barn in the Steinbach area went up in flames May 19. Steinbach RCMP says it received an early-morning call and arrived at the scene south of the city to find the barn fully engulfed in flames.

The fire resulted in the total loss of the barn, that had an estimated value of $1 million. The Office of the Fire Commissioner is still investigating. At this point of the investigation the fire is not believed to be suspicious. Don’t touch: Manitoba Conservation is advising the public to avoid touching or “rescuing” young wildlife – even if they appear to be abandoned. Most likely, the mothers are foraging for food nearby. Touching the wild animal could cause the mother to reject it. As well, wild animals can be dangerous to handle or infected with disease. If the animal is clearly orphaned, people are advised to contact their nearest Manitoba Conservation office.

– Manitoba Government release Canola crush: Canada is on pace to crush a record volume of canola this crop year as new plants open and China’s appetite grows for canola oil and meal.

Domestic demand for canola comes at a good time, underpinning ICE canola futures that would otherwise be under pressure from projections for big canola and U. S. soybean plantings, said canola trader Bill Craddock. Crushers have processed 3.5 million tonnes of canola in 2009-10, up eight per cent from a year earlier, the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association said May 21. – Reuters Using reserves: China’s stocks of corn are near record-high levels and the country can meet demand by releasing one-third of its reserves, which should prevent prices from rising further, a top grain administration official said on Monday.

Zeng Liying, deputy head of the State Grain Administration, told a conference in Beijing that China was expecting 150 million tonnes of corn consumption this year.

She said that after selling its temporary reserves, China could dip into its strategic corn stockpiles if necessary.

Farm groups are questioning a prolonged delay by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in releasing a report which predicts a huge drop in farm income this year.

AAFC quietly released its 2010 farm income forecast in late April, two months after the annual report normally comes out.

The report, which predicts a 91 per cent drop in realized net farm income, appeared unannounced on the department’s website without the usual accompanying news release.

Canadian Federation of Agriculture directors discovered it during a late-April board meeting in Ottawa.

“There was lots of speculation around the table about why it was delayed,” said Brigid Rivoire, CFA executive director, noting AAFC’s farm income forecast usually appears in February.

“The speculation was because the numbers were so poor… I can’t imagine anybody’d be too anxious to get out bad figures like that.”

PLUNGING INCOME

The report predicts realized net income (net cash income minus depreciation) will plunge to $291.5 million in 2010, 91 per cent less than in 2009 and 86 per cent less than the previous five-year average.

Total net income (realized net income minus changes in inventories) will be 106 per cent lower, according to the report.

In Manitoba, realized net income in 2010 is forecast to fall by 57 per cent.

The report blames international forces as a big reason for the decline.

“Canada’s farm sector was not immune to the global economic downturn – in fact, global economic conditions have a far-reaching effect on farm income,” says the report’s executive summary.

“The global recession has left producers facing lower consumer demand for their products – red meats in particular.”

The steep decline in farm income is not unexpected. Cattle markets continue depressed and hog prices are only starting to recover after being down for three years. Crop prices are also lower after reaching near-record highs two years ago.

“Most everyone would tell you they couldn’t see themselves doing anywhere near as good as they did last year,” said Ian Wishart, Keystone Agricultural Producers president.

MOTIVES QUESTIONED

But the apparent secrecy behind the report’s release has some questioning the Conservative government’s motives.

“Everything they do is based on strategy,” said Alex Atamanenko, federal NDP agriculture critic. “I don’t think there’s any kind of element of chance here. They obviously know what they’re doing.”

Atamanenko speculated the Tories may have expected an election this spring and did not want to release negative figures too early.

“They’re saying everything is going to be better, but it’s not. So the strategy may be to not try to make a big deal out of this in the hope people don’t notice it,” he said from his home in Castlegar, British Columbia.

Darell Pack, an AAFC spokesperson, said the delay was due to “internal production issues in getting the report ready to post,” although he could not be more specific.

“There’s always back and forth in getting a document like that produced,” said Pack, the department’s media, writing services and special projects director.

The absence of a news release to accompany a farm income report is not unusual, added Pack. He said there wasn’t one last year, although there was the year previous when the report underwent a format change.

STARTLING NUMBERS

Ron Bonnett, CFA first vice-president, said he had no evidence to suggest the report was deliberately delayed.

But he added: “I think they were startled by the numbers and they were trying to figure out what kind of communications message to put around it.”

The report expects farmers’ cash receipts from the marketplace will be lower than in 2009 across the board. Crop receipts ($20.5 billion) will be down by eight per cent, livestock receipts ($17.4 billion) will be off by three per cent and total market receipts ($37.9 billion) will be six per cent lower.

Program payments ($3.8 billion) are forecast to be up 12 per cent. But they will still be 17 per cent lower than the five-year average.

Bonnett said the figures illustrate CFA’s long-held view that Canada’s farm programs do not meet producers’ needs.

“We’ve been saying for some time that programs aren’t responding.”

Darren Qualman, National Farmers Union policy director, said his organization’s analysis shows realized net farm income, adjusted for inflation, is lower than at any time during the dirty thirties. [email protected]

Comments

explore

Stories from our other publications