Agriculture This Week - Clouds swirl on horizon

It has to be difficult for farmers itching to get into the field this spring to be reading some of the lead stories in the agriculture media right now. 
It is tough enough to be patient waiting for the weather to warm after an April that started with some promising sunshine, but turned generally cooler than anyone on the Canadian Prairies would have hoped given winters are always longer than all but the most devout snow lover wants. 
And once May hits farmers get antsy. Research shows early seeded crops if they avoid frost, generally produce better, and every day in May seeding is delayed is not good news for farmers, but as we head towards mid-month betting on a frost free night still seems something of a risk. 

But, if farmers read the news, they are going to feel at least a twinge of worry what lies ahead for the crops they are planting. 
A story at producer.com begins with the startling news “Agriculture Canada’s Canadian Drought Monitor’s (CDM) new map shows the ongoing drought on the Prairies is getting worse.” 

Producers invest huge dollars in planting a crop with maximum inputs such as fertilizer to produce top yields, but the weather always holds the chance of trumping those efforts and reading “seventy-seven percent of the prairie region was classified as either abnormally dry, in moderate drought, severe drought or extreme drought; this includes nearly 93 percent of the region’s agricultural landscape,” is not good news. 

It might not be a huge surprise, given there was not a lot of snow, limiting spring run-off, but it is troubling. 

Of course producers now must hope for rains, and they need to happen at the right time. Obviously if rain hit in late May, it would impact the all-important seeding season, but moisture has to happen soon after the crop is in the ground if they are going to get a good start. 

And, then looking ahead to fall, a second story at www.producer.com starts out “ocean freight rates are steadily increasing and there is no end in sight, according to a report by United States Wheat Associates.” 

For a country that relies largely on exporting commodities like Canada does, including grains, oilseeds and pulses from the agriculture sector, increased ocean shipping rates are not good as they will be reflected in lower returns to farmers. 

The increased ocean freight costs does do one thing that is positive, which is re-enforce the importance of adding value to commodities here on the Prairies, such as the recent major canola crush developments announced for Yorkton and Regina.

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