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Come On, Spring!

If there was any silver lining to the late spring across Western Canada it’s that most farmers probably had time to watch results of the federal election this week.

While farmers contacted for this Farmer Panel say they usually can get a start on field work in late April and certainly by May 1, farmers from southern Manitoba to the Alberta Peace River region say with the combination of cold and wet conditions it will be more like May 7 or even May 15 before they get rolling.

No one interviewed in late April was pushing the panic button yet — if the weather straightened out to produce warm and dry conditions over the coming days, crops would get seeded. But it was also pointed out by some that every day seeding is delayed after May 1 means yields will be reduced.

And on the election front, all farmers contacted were hoping this vote would allow one party to form a majority government, which would then make it possible for the government of the day to move forward with several issues. Most were expecting it to be a Harper/Conservative majority, but perhaps more importantly, they just wanted to see someone take charge.

Here is what farmers participating in the May Farmer Panel had to say about the lateness of the seeding season, and the outlook for the federal election:

KELLY KABERNICK SANFORD, MAN.

Field conditions were still quite wet in late April on Kelly Kabernick’s farm near Sanford, just southwest of Winnipeg, but he was also concerned about the cold soil temperatures.

He figured the seeding season was at least 10 days behind what it normally is or should be. His farm is behind a dike that hopefully will protect it from the more general flooding in the Red River Valley. And although fields were bare of snow, there were still 10 foot deep snow drifts in shelterbelts that would keep parts of fields wet as it melted.

“We still have to dry out, but I am also thinking the temperature of the soil has to warm up considerably too,” he says. “Normally we are able to start field work by late April and are seeding by May 1. It would have to be warmer and drier than normal over the last couple weeks of April for us to be seeding by May 1.

“That May 1 is when the clock starts ticking for me — statistically we are starting to lose yield in any crop seeded after that date.”

Kabernick, who crops about 3,000 acres says he has no particular Plan B in place for the late season. “We just have to be ready for conditions to improve,” he says, “And when the timing is right we have to be ready to seed as fast and hard as we can — do as many acres in a day as possible.”

And on the election front, Kabernick says he’d like to see the Conservatives form a majority, which means the government could move forward with Canadian Wheat Board reform or creation of a dual marketing system.

NORM SHOEMAKER MOSSBANK, SASK.

With “a tonne of water” on his farm at Mossbank, southwest of Moose Jaw, Norm Shoemaker figures it will be at least two weeks — somewhere around May 6 or 7 before they begin seeding about 2,000 acres of crop this year.

“Normally at Mossbank we are starting the last week of April, but as long as conditions remain dry it will still be toward the end of the first week of May before we are out this year,” he says.

While seeding start will be a bit later than usual, Shoemaker says so far he hasn’t looked at any changes in rotation because of the season. While he has produced a wide range of crops over the years, the rotation will focus on cereals in 2011, and on malt barley in particular.

Shoemaker also hopes the federal election will produce a Conservative majority government that will look at Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) reform. He says some people argue the CWB cannot be changed, but he says if the marketing system is so good for Canada why isn’t Ontario wheat production under the CWB? “And farmers seem to do a pretty good job of growing and marketing canola, peas, lentils and other crops, and the CWB isn’t involved there,” he says. “So I think we should have the chance to market our own wheat and barley. “

DARIN EGERT CANDO, SASK.

Farming in western Saskatchewan, about mid-way between Saskatoon and North Battleford, Darin Egert says conditions are late this year, but perhaps not as late as other parts of the Prairies.

Egert who crops about 5,000 acres of canola, wheat, barley, and pulse crops figures with cool, wet conditions his area is running about five days later than average.

“A lot of years we are out on the land by the last week of April and this year it will likely be May 5 or 7,” he says. “Fields are beginning to dry up, there are a few sloughs, but not as bad as some areas. But the soil is cold and we’ll have to wait for that to warm up too.”

Egert says he doesn’t expect to adjust the rotation for 2011, noting with some new land to be farmed this spring, the emphasis will be on canola and wheat.

On his election wish list, he is hoping a majority government will be serious about grain transportation review and take measures to improve the movement of grain off the Prairies. “Even with lower volumes last year, the availability of rail cars has been spotty,” he says. “We really need a thorough review and improvements made in grain transportation.”

Egert would also like to see a federal government make a serious commitment to maintaining and improving Agriculture Canada research funding.

STEWART COLLIN FOREMOST, ALTA.

Most years Stewart Collin is done seeding by early May, but this year it will likely be the second week of May before he even gets started.

Collin, who crops about 1,700 acres at Foremost, in southeast Alberta, says there was still some new snow on the ground in late April and plenty of water laying in fields making seeding season in his area about three weeks behind.

“I don’t expect we’ll even get started until May 10 this year,” says Collin. “About nine per cent of our seeded acres are under water, so we have to wait for that to dry up. And then when we do get seeding there will be a lot of doubling up and turning to get around these wet areas so it won’t be very efficient in terms of acres per hour.”

With the later season, Collin plans to switch durum acres into spring wheat, because he generally considers durum to be about 12 days later in maturity over spring wheat. And he may also switch more acres into yellow mustard, an early-season oilseed that reaches maturity in 90 days.

“These wet conditions will cause some delays, but I still would rather

deal with too much moisture, than have the dust blowing and be watching the clouds pass over us,” says Collin. One new experience he is getting use to is keeping sump pumps running in the basement of the family home, which until last summer had remained dry for about 37 years.

Collin also hopes a majority government — likely Conservative — will deal with some agriculture issues.

He would hope to see improved federal and provincial government relations that would lead to an effective AgriStability program. Collin would like to see real progress made in reducing interprovincial trade barriers. “How can Canada talk about international

trade relations at GATT and WTO, when it can’t even develop improved trade between provinces,” says Collin.

And he would also like to see a government take action on improving grain transportation.”

HARRY SCHULDO SEXSMITH, ALTA.

With about two feet of snow, on the level, over the fields as of late April on his farm near Sexsmith in Alberta’s Peace River region, Harry Schuldo figured seeding season will be at least two weeks later than normal.

“I think the earliest I have ever seeded here is April 17,” he says. “Usually it is early May. And by the looks of things right now it is easily going to be May 15 before we can get started. There is still snow on the ground and the soil temperature has to warm up too.”

Schuldo says the late season will put pressure on farmers, but it is still a better situation than the last two or three years of drought. There has been some snow melt, but no run off, which means most moisture is going into the ground. “We are going to be late, but it just means as soon as conditions are right we will have to act fast and guys will be will working day and night to get it seeded,” he says.

Over the next week or so Schuldo says he will have to make a decision about perhaps seeding shorter season hybrid canola varieties. And, with the window on seeding wheat closing May 25, he says there will also be pressure on those producers who have futures contracts on wheat production.

“Hopefully if we have a late spring, we will have an extended fall,” he says. “It often works that way. In the meantime we have to hope for some nice warm spring days over the next couple weeks”.

And with the election, Schuldo hopes there will be a majority government which will get Ottawa back to business rather than politics. “The debate we’ve seen is just like a bunch of kids,” he says. “No one wants to really deal with issues, they just point fingers at each other and complain about who said what to who.”

“We just can’t keep spinning our wheels here. We need to get an AgriStability program worked out. And, a minority government really doesn’t send a very good message to our international trading partners because they have to wonder who is in charge here.”

LeeHartisfieldeditorforGrainewsatCalgary. Contacthimat403-592-1964orbyemailat [email protected]

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By the looks of things right now, it’s going to be May 15 before we get started

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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