Seeding uncertainty 2017

By Tim Kalinowski


There is money to be made in agriculture this year, says Alberta provincial crop market analyst Neil Blue, but farmers really have to find ways to streamline their costs and pick the right crop for their operations to maximize their profits.
“There are crops out there with the potential to be profitable with average yields even,” explains Blue. “But there is going to be quite a bit of feed grain around, and I think farmers will be anticipating that. In terms of the crops that look most promising from an economic point of view, canola prices have actually increased from last fall. Prices are relatively strong, and that’s certainly supported by very strong exports and crush going on. I don’t see that changing, so canola is going to be a popular choice for acreage. We might see even slightly record acreage this coming year despite rotational challenges some farmers are facing in their fields.”
Flax, the oilseed market and peas might also be worth taking a closer look at, says Blue.
“Flax prices have been relatively strong, and the economics would look like it would favour flax over some of the cereals if we get average yields even…Yellow pea prices have also been surprisingly strong through the winter.
“We have some farmers who have not had their peas called for delivery despite the original delivery dates being now past,” continues Blue. “The price for new crops of peas, though, are still quite strong.”
According to Blue, wheat prices may continue to be a little bit of a disappointment in 2017 due to a weak export market and severe quality issues in Canadian supply. Corn should hold its own if a producer can sign a good contract, and lentils will probably be a crop many farmers will continue to bet on.
“Lentils might be something that’s here for the long term in Alberta. In fact, lentils, peas and chickpeas are all potentially profitable crops this year, but disease might be a discouraging factor on some of these pulses,” he adds.
If a farmer is looking to take a flyer on something, or try something new, on a few acres, Blue suggests flax might be the best bet.
“Flax has got some potential. and there might be some merit in taking a look at that in those areas where it can be grown with relative ease. But it isn’t a large market,” he cautions, “so there’s always the risk of overproducing. However, the economics of it look fairly favourable.”
Blue acknowledges what crop to get in this spring may take second place, in some regions, to getting last year’s leftover harvest off the ground.
“It remains to be seen how the balance of the crop that’s leftover from last year turns out, whether there is going to be higher quality than feed from that crop or whether some it will be salvageable at all. That’s part of the unknown as we move into spring.
“For those farmers out there with cash flow difficulties, the Crop Advance program is active for this year already, and that is something to consider with lots of potential benefits for those farmers who still have to get their harvest in,” he adds.