by Tom Lutey
Apr. 2, 2016 - With falling grain prices, Montana farmers say they'll plant a million fewer acres of wheat this season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The slide from 5.9 million wheat acres in 2014 to 4.9 million acres in the 2016 prospective plantings report, is the sharpest decline in several years. Since 2014, wheat prices have fallen nearly 30 per cent, enough to strip the profit from some farms.Wheat is still Montana's largest crop. The state would rank fourth nationally for wheat acres in 2016, the report indicated. Nationally, production is expected to be down nine per cent.
"Some people are getting $3.90 a bushel for wheat. That's pretty serious business," said George Haynes, Montana State University economist, noting that the price drop would be too much for some farms.
Those former wheat acres are going into other things, namely lentils, which are at 500,000 acres this spring, a nearly fourfold increase in the past two years. Lentils are a niche crop that is doing well as a result of global demand and challenging weather conditions in 2015 that cut supplies. Lentils averaged almost $28 per hundredweight at the end of 2015, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Montana Department of Agriculture has promoted lentil production for several years and the state now is the nation's largest lentil producer.
"The continued growth of pulse crops, including lentils is reflective of the diversification by Montana farmers," said Ron DeYong, Montana Department of Agriculture director. "Prices for lentils have been strong. We expect demand to continue to grow as we develop more trade opportunities and consumers learn about their benefits during the International Year of Pulses."
Other big gains in acreage went to dry beans, which have more than doubled in two years to 80,000 acres. Barley crossed the million-acre mark for the first time in three years, up 80,000 acres from 2014.
Garbanzo beans have more than doubled in acres in the last two years to 68,000 acres.
Sugar beet acres were expected to be at 42,000, a slight decline.
Some of the alternatives to wheat come with contracts guaranteeing the firm price before the seeds are even in the ground. Lola Raska, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said malt barley is an attractive option to farmers because of an early contract, which protects farmers from market swings during the season.
Malt barley must have low levels of protein, otherwise it makes for cloudy beer. The protein is kept in check by pouring the water on during the growing season. If the protein levels are low, the contract price is honoured.
There's a possibility, Raska said, that farmers will take note of the declining acres in spring wheat and decided to go against the trend. High protein, hard red spring wheat is niche crop primarily in Montana and North Dakota.
North Dakota farmers indicate they will plant a million fewer acres this year than they did last year. Montana farmers expected to cut spring wheat plantings by 450,000 acres. Cuts like that could drive up the Spring wheat price for those who plant, Raska said.
Farming and livestock sales contribute roughly $4 billion to Montana's economy annually.
Jan. 4, 2016 – Winter will be dominated by El Niño, which usually means limited precipitation for western and southeastern Canada, according to the latest weather outlook from Farm Credit Canada. That could start the spring 2016 crop year off on a drier-than-usual start, especially in Alberta and parts of British Columbia. | READ MORE
Apr. 7, 2014, Billings, MT - With grain markets in flux, Montana farmers say they will back away from spring wheat and plant other crops this season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Producers tell the USDA there will be 350,000 fewer acres of Montana spring wheat this year. Planting intentions were published this week in the USDA's prospective plantings report, which provides a first look at what America's farmers intend to grow.
April 7, 2014, United States – U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists say they have pinpointed the location of a gene in a little-known ancient grass that could help save wheat from an unrelenting fungus.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Matt Rouse and Yue Jin, with the agency's Cereal Disease Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., found the gene while studying the DNA of ancient grasses. They were searching for genes that could make wheat more resistant to Ug99 (Puccinia graminis), a type of stem rust that is constantly evolving.
Ug99 has not yet been found in the United States, but it is spreading overseas and is considered a potential threat to up to 90 per cent of the world's wheat. Genes in wheat that seem to offer immunity one growing season become susceptible to newly developed "races" the next. Ug99 was first reported by scientists in Uganda in 1999, and controlling it has since become an international priority.
Scientists often study a crop's wild relatives for genes that will confer resistance to pests and pathogens. But what makes the efforts of Rouse and Jin noteworthy is the diversity of grasses being studied. They include einkorn wheat, an ancient variety still cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean; emmer wheat, found in archeological sites and still growing wild in the Near East; and goatgrass, a wild relative of wheat with genes that breeders have tapped to boost immunity in commercial wheat varieties.
In one study, Rouse and his colleagues at Kansas State University and the University of California at Davis focused on locating a gene in einkorn wheat that confers near immunity to Ug99. They focused on locating a gene, known as Sr35, which was previously discovered in einkorn. But the exact location of this gene in the plant's vast genome remained a mystery. The wheat genome is huge, containing nearly two times more genetic information than the human genome.
To find Sr35's position, the researchers sequenced areas of the plant's genome where they suspected it was located. In one set of mutant plants, they knocked out the cloned sequences and found it made those plants susceptible to Ug99. In another set they inserted the same sequences into previously susceptible plants and found it made them resistant.
The results, published in Science in 2013, marked the first time that scientists managed to isolate and clone a Ug99 resistance gene. The achievement should make it easier to insert useful genes into wheat varieties.
Read the full story here.
The report said limited water supplies will begin to have a significant impact on food production over the next few decades.
Read the full story here.
Aug. 22, 2013, Canada – Canadian farmers anticipate record canola production in 2013, as well as increases in wheat, barley and oats, according to Statistics Canada's production of principal field crops survey. Corn for grain production is also expected to surpass the record set last year, while soybean production may decrease.
At the time of the survey, Prairies farmers reported that climatic events over the last few weeks, such as hail and heavy rain episodes, may have an adverse effect on some areas to be harvested.
Canadian farmers anticipate a record 14.7 million tonnes of canola in 2013, the result of a 21.9 per cent rise in average yield to 33.7 bushels per acre.
In Saskatchewan, 7.2 million tonnes of canola are expected to be produced in 2013, up 16.6 per cent from 2012. This is as a result of a 26.8 per cent increase in the average yield to 31.2 bushels per acre. Harvested area is expected to decrease 8.2 per cent to 10.1 million acres.
In Alberta, farmers anticipate 5.2 million tonnes of canola, a 5.6 per cent increase over 2012. This increase is the result of a 13.1 per cent increase in average yield, while the harvested area is expected to decrease 6.7 per cent to 6.0 million acres.
In Manitoba, farmers expect canola production of 2.3 million tonnes, up 10.7 per cent from 2012 as a result of a 27.2 per cent gain in average yield to 33.2 bushels per acre. However, harvested area is set to decline 13.0 per cent to 3.1 million acres.
At the national level, total wheat production is expected to reach 30.6 million tonnes in 2013, up 12.9 per cent from 2012.
This anticipated increase is a result of combined gains in harvested area, from 23.4 million acres in 2012 to 25.5 million acres in 2013, and in average yield, up 3.3 per cent to 44.0 bushels per acre.
In Saskatchewan, farmers anticipate a 14 per cent increase in total wheat production to 14.5 million tonnes.
In Alberta, total wheat production is expected to reach a record 9.4 million tonnes (+12.2 per cent) in 2013, the result of a record average yield of 49.6 bushels per acre.
In Manitoba, total wheat production is expected to increase by 3.6 per cent to 4.1 million tonnes.
Barley and oats
Nationally, barley production is anticipated to rise 12.4 per cent to 8.8 million tonnes in 2013. This increase is driven by a potential record average yield of 64.1 bushels per acre. However, harvested area is set to decline 5.2 per cent to 6.3 million acres.
Canadian farmers expect oats production to increase 11.9 per cent to reach 2.9 million tonnes. This gain is the result of another potential record average yield of 79.4 bushels per acre.
Corn for grain
At the national level, corn for grain production is expected to increase 0.9 per cent, surpassing the record set last year.
Ontario farmers anticipate a slight decrease in corn for grain production in 2013 compared with 2012, down 0.7 per cent to 8.5 million tonnes. This is the result of a 1.8 per cent decrease in harvested area, offsetting a one per cent increase in average yield.
In Quebec, farmers anticipate a 1.3 per cent increase in production to 3.6 million tonnes. This reflects a 6.2 per cent increase in harvested area from 951,400 acres in 2012 to one million acres in 2013. Average yield is anticipated to decrease 4.6 per cent to 138.3 bushels per acre.
In Manitoba, the production of corn for grain is set to increase from 815 400 tonnes in 2012 to a record 919 500 tonnes in 2013. This increase is a result of an anticipated record harvested area of 340,000 acres.
Nationally, soybean production in 2013 is anticipated to decrease 1.2 per cent to 4.8 million tonnes.
Ontario soybean production is expected to fall 10.6 per cent to 2.9 million tonnes in 2013. This decline is driven by combined decreases in harvested area, from 2.6 million acres in 2012 to 2.5 million acres in 2013, and in average yield, from 46.5 to 43.0 bushels per acre.
In Quebec, soybean production is expected to reach a record 830,000 tonnes in 2013. Average yield is expected to decline 2.3 per cent to 42.9 bushels per acre, while harvested area is expected to increase three per cent.
Manitoba farmers anticipate a record soybean production of 928,000 tonnes in 2013, up 22.2 per cent from 2012. This increase reflects a record harvested area of 1.0 million acres, up 28.1 per cent from 2012. However, average yield is expected to decrease 4.6 per cent to 33.3 bushels per acre.
The 14 international participants represent trading organizations, mills and processing companies from Algeria, Colombia, Cuba, Germany, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, South Korea, and the U.S. A participant from a Canadian couscous processing company is also attending as well as two representatives from the Canadian Grain Commission.
In addition to classroom and technical sessions at Cigi and a tour of crop plots near Winnipeg, the participants will visit the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and a grain farm near Saskatoon. The group will then travel to Vancouver, British Columbia where they will tour a terminal elevator, the CGC, and the Port of Vancouver.
"The program will offer international customers a greater understanding of Canada Western Amber Durum wheat and its application in pasta and other end products as well as providing us with additional information on their end-use requirements," says Earl Geddes, Cigi CEO, who is heading the program. Topics will include breeding, production, grading, handling, transportation, marketing, milling and end-use processing. One session will look at the use of pulse flour and durum wheat in the production of noodles.
The event, taking place September 15 to 18 at the TELUS Convention Centre, will provide scientists, agribusiness and farmers with a 360-degree view of the current and emerging role of biotech in food and energy production.
As Alberta agribusiness veteran Art Froehlich observes, biotech is a multi-faceted issue that matters a great deal to the future of Canada. He cites a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report that forecasts, by the year 2025, only six nations in the world will be net exporters of food. Those countries are expected to be Canada, Australia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, France and Argentina.
On the face of it, that's great news for Canada. It suggests that many current net food exporters, specifically the United States, could be preoccupied with their domestic markets. That creates an opening for Canada to increase its own exports and do so profitably.
Not so fast, notes Froehlich. Converting a market opportunity into money in the bank isn't so easy.
"We will need to raise our game significantly between now and 2025," says Froehlich. "We will need to grow much more food and energy from a finite or declining resource base. To do this, we will need all the technology – including biotechnology – that we can get."
Froehlich identifies four areas where Canada can and must do more. One is the challenge of health – not just growing more food but growing better food, too. Functional foods and nutraceuticals will skyrocket in importance. A second issue is the need to develop crops that use water and nutrients more efficiently. A third is the use of biologicals rather than just chemicals to protect crops from insects and disease. Finally, seed genetics will be a major driver of productivity, as science stacks more valuable traits into new crop varieties. All these issues are on the agenda for ABIC 2013.
Advanced science and new technology, then, will be important to Canada on the road to 2025. Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Kansas City-based Center for Food Integrity, will be coming to ABIC 2013 bearing a countervailing message: science alone won't be enough.
"There's a big difference between what we can do, identified by science, and what we should do, which society will ultimately decide," says Arnot. "The agriculture industry has been frustrated by the fact that a scientific argument alone has not proven to be persuasive with the public. I believe we can't substitute scientific verification for ethical justification."
A scientific breakthrough that lacks public support will likely be tough to commercialize. For this reason, Arnot makes the case that scientific discovery and public acceptance must be pursued in parallel. He calls on the agriculture industry to adopt a policy of 'radical transparency' to build understanding and trust between the industry and the public.
"We need to show that values and ethics are the foundation of what the industry is doing," says Arnot.
How can Canada capture a world of opportunity in 2025? It'll take a strategic mix of breakthrough science, smart technology, committed producers and a public that's willing to come along for the ride. Finding the right blend of science, technology and policy is the subject of ABIC 2013.
Keynote and panel speakers span the senior ranks of global agribusiness, renowned biotech researchers and some of North America's most progressive and publicly engaged crop and livestock producers.
The program offers 23 international customers a broad overview of the Canadian field crop industry with an emphasis on wheat and pulses, and their use in end products.
The program includes presentations, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations using Canadian field crops in Cigi's pilot facilities. The group will participate in classroom sessions and technical demonstrations on Canadian grains including an introduction to the Canadian industry, inspection and grading, handling, transportation, marketing and technology. The participants include representatives from trading organizations, mills, and processing companies from Algeria, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the U.S. and Venezuela.
While at Cigi the group will also tour a grain farm, primary elevator, the CGC and CMBTC facilities.
Farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.95 billion bushels, 55 million fewer bushels than predicted in June. That still beats the 2009 record by about 858 million bushels. A bushel of corn, when on the ears, weighs about 70 pounds. | READ MORE
June 17, 2013 – A year-long joint Sino-Canadian study released to key decision-makers in China on June 14, has proven that the use of Canadian canola meal in cattle feed in Chinese dairies can significantly increase quantity produced.
In a market where demand for milk is skyrocketing and milk quality is a concern for both dairies and consumers alike, the study marks a turning point in the development of China's dairy industry. And it opens up potential opportunities for Canadian canola meal in China. Assuming the entire Chinese dairy industry included Canadian canola meal, milk production in China would increase by about seven million litres per day.
The study, coordinated by the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) with funding from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, was conducted by leading Chinese academics, in cooperation with China's largest dairy companies. The results were revealed at a Beijing event with Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in attendance. Canola Council President Patti Miller Chaired the event, which included Chinese dairy executives, officials of China's Ministry of Agriculture, and local media.
The research was conducted by Dr. Li Shengli and Dr. Wang Ruojun of the China Agricultural University at dairy farms operated by China's five largest milk producers. The study proved that when used in dry rations, meal from Canadian canola can increase daily milk production by .6 kilograms per cow, a substantial increase. One kilogram of milk is roughly equivalent to one litre. Over the past 30 years research done in various countries with Canadian canola meal has shown a cumulative average increase in milk production of one litre per cow per day, so this most recent study in China is consistent with long-term studies.
According to Ruojun, the study does more than just demonstrate a link between canola feed and the quantity of milk produced. "It makes clear that canola provides an answer to a challenge that has vexed Chinese dairies for years: how to raise both the quality and quantity of milk produced without raising cost disproportionately," says Ruojun. "Our research shows that use of canola is not only effective; it is economical for Chinese dairy farmers as well."
Canola is Canada's top agricultural export to China. In 2012, Canadian sales of canola seed, oil and meal to China was worth 3.1 billion- representing more than 50% of Canadian agri-food exports to China.
Click here for more information on the study.
May 23, 2013, Ottawa, ON - The 17th round of negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) allowed Canadian agriculture to significantly raise the profile of key priorities for farmers and the grains and oilseed trade. The Canola Council of Canada (CCC) and the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) were in Lima, Peru for the last eight days as part a Canadian industry delegation.
"It was a great opportunity to explain to negotiators and other stakeholders why the TPP needs to include provisions that will give all farmers better market access," says Richard Phillips, GGC Executive Director. "It's important that an ambitious TPP agreement include a strong commitment to regulatory coherence and language for a low level presence policy reflective of today's trade in grain."
Phillips and Brian Innes, CCC Market Access Manager, made a formal presentation at the stakeholder forum organized by the Peruvian government, focused on how science-based policies related to maximum residue levels of crop protection products and biotechnology will help improve both trade and international food security.
Presentation is available at www.graingrowers.ca.
"The reality in the world today is that biotechnology is playing a central role in crop production, and we need strong policies that facilitate trade and avoid unnecessary non-tariff trade barriers," says Innes. "Establishing science-based trade rules around biotechnology is an essential part of providing real market access in a 21st century trade agreement."
The Canadian agriculture presentation outlined the reality of global population growth and food needs, and given that most of the good land is already being farmed, there is an urgent need to increase productivity. Some new biotechnology has reduced the need for excessive cultivation to control weeds which use valuable water and nutrients. Other traits have greatly reduced the need for pesticides to control damaging insects or diseases.
The presentation highlighted the need for countries to approve new traits at the same time to facilitate trade. Currently for example, Canada, the US and Australia could approve a new trait, which then might take several years for registration in other countries. This has the effect of creating an artificial trade barrier due to the possibility of very low levels of dust or co-mingling in other grain shipments.
The same challenges exist for new crop protection products where some countries have completed thorough testing to international standards and others may take several years to finish. A suggestion was made that the agreement could include language that would permit general acceptance of approvals.
In addition to the formal presentation, Phillips and Innes met with a number of negotiators and stakeholders from across the TPP. There was a clear desire by many agricultural stakeholders for the TPP to build upon existing WTO and bi-lateral trade agreements so that trade can be more efficient and predictable.
May 1, 2013 - The European Union cannot meet its goals in agricultural policy without embracing genetically engineered crops (GMOs). That's the conclusion of scientists who write in Trends in Plant Science, a Cell Press publication, based on case studies showing that the EU is undermining its own competitiveness in the agricultural sector to its own detriment and that of its humanitarian activities in the developing world.
"Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress, ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture," said Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats in Spain.
"Many aspects of the EU agricultural policy, including those concerning GMOs, are internally inconsistent and actively obstruct what the policy sets out to achieve," Christou and his colleagues continued.
For instance, the Lisbon Strategy aims to create a knowledge-based bioeconomy and recognizes the potential of GMOs to deliver it, but EU policy on the cultivation of GMOs has created an environment that makes this impossible. In reality, there is a de facto moratorium in Europe on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops such as maize, cotton, and soybean, even as the same products are imported because there is insufficient capacity to produce them by conventional means at home.
Subsidies designed to support farmers now benefit large producers at the expense of family farms, Christou says. The EU has also banned its farmers from using many pesticides and restricted them from other nonchemical methods of pest control, while allowing food products produced in the same ways to be imported.
"EU farmers are denied freedom of choice—in essence, they are prevented from competing because EU policies actively discriminate against those wishing to cultivate genetically engineered crops, yet exactly the same crops are approved for import," Christou says.
All this, he says, despite the fact that GMOs must pass stringent safety tests and there has been no evidence of harm or health risks, despite more than 15 years of GMO agriculture around the world.
"This is an important step forward for our industry, and for stabilizing our relationship with this valuable trading partner," says Miller. "It shows what can happen when you apply good science and work with a trading partner to solve a technical trade issue."
China's inspection and quarantine agency, AQSIQ, has given the go ahead for the crusher in Nantong, CNOOC-Biolux to begin importing canola seed from Canada on a trial basis. CNOOC-Biolux is located in Jiangsu, one of the major rapeseed growing provinces. It is the first crusher in the rapeseed growing region of China permitted to import canola from Canada since the blackleg quarantine order in 2009-10, which stemmed from concerns about canola seed testing positive for blackleg. This brings to 11 the number of crushers now approved to accept Canadian canola seed since the quarantine order.
The CCC and government have collaborated to improve understanding around the issue. In February 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced a memorandum of understanding to conduct research, which was coordinated by the CCC and funded by the Canadian industry and the Government of Canada with cooperation from AAFC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The latest announcement of expanded crushing capacity signals that the research results have addressed many of China's concerns.
China has gradually introduced provisional measures that have allowed seed to move to certain crushers. Because of these provisions, China was Canada's largest market for canola seed in 2012. China imported more than 2.9 million tonnes of Canadian canola seed worth more than $1.8 billion. The total value of Canadian seed, oil and meal into China in 2012 was $3.14 billion.
Canada's canola industry relies heavily on access to export markets, with over 85 percent of all production being exported as seed, oil or meal. Canola is Canada's top agricultural product to China, and China is a valuable and growing market for Canadian canola.
Apr. 12, 2013, Olds, AB - Olds College is hosting the 60th World Plowing Championship July 19 and 20. This international event is a major part of the College's Centennial celebrations.
The match will feature 60 competitors from up to 30 countries vying for the prestigious title of World Champion for 2013.
While plowing is the cornerstone, there is much more going on during the two days at Olds.
"Plowing is nearly a lost art on many Alberta farms, but Plowing Matches are big events. They're a great way for farmers from around the world to get together and celebrate what they have in common – agriculture," says Olds Plowing Match chairman Mark Kaun, who has attended world matches in New Zealand, and last year in Croatia.
Vintage organizers confirm some 400 pieces of antique farm equipment from as far away as Montana, North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be at the site, along with an antique tractor pull, and a daily parade of old tractors, machinery, trucks and cars. There will be demonstrations of plowing with tractors and steam, and some draft horse plowing as well.
Registrations from international visitors have been pouring in to the Olds Plowing match office.
"We've already got over 400 people signed up to come for the entire 10-day package," says coordinator Kerry Moynihan. "There's a large group from Austria, lots from the U.K. and New Zealand, and Sweden too. These top competitors are like rock stars in their own countries, and they have fans that follow them wherever they compete.
"This year, for the first time ever in the history of the World Plowing Match, we have two female competitors, representing Austria. They're so serious; they're arriving in Canada in mid-June to practice."
Canada will be represented at the World Plowing Match by Barry Timbers and Brian Fried, both from Ontario.
Competition is keen when the plowing begins, with several international competitors even shipping over their own tractors and plows. There is plowing with both conventional and reversible plows, on stubble and grass. Judges use a scorecard to assess the finished plot, which contestants have had to keep straight and accurate with every pass up and down the plot, using mid-sized tractors.
Another highlight will be the unveiling of the World Peace Cairn, designed by Olds College students and including a stone from every participating nation.
Anyone interested in being part of this historic event as a volunteer can contact the Olds College Centennial office.
To get more details, head to the website www.worldplowing2013.com.
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