‘A lot of positives:’ Western farmers wrap up harvest early, look to improved prices

‘With the quality of the crop, we’re going to have a pretty good marketing year ahead of us’

EDMONTON — A long, lingering fall across much of the Prairies is putting crops in the bin early this year, allowing farmers to take advantage of improving prices.

“We’ll be having Thanksgiving supper at the house this year instead of out in the field, so that’s always nice,” said Todd Lewis, who farms more than 4,000 hectares near Regina.

Lewis has more to be thankful for than a comfortable seat at a good meal. After a couple of tough years with late rains and early snows, 2020’s warm, dry autumn has put him and his fellow farmers in a sweet spot — a decent, above-average crop safely in the bin with high ratings for quality and prices looking up.

“It has been pretty positive,” Lewis said. “With the quality of the crop, we’re going to have a pretty good marketing year ahead of us.”

Everything in farming varies from place to place. But Statistics Canada says that on the whole, this has been a good year in agriculture.

Overall wheat yields are forecast to be up about six per cent to about 34 million tonnes. Canola, Canada’s second-largest crop, is expected to come in just under the five-year average at 19 million tonnes.

Yields of other important crops such as barley, oats, lentils and corn are all forecast to rise this year.

And while many farmers at this time last year still had crops in the field — some shrouded under unseasonal snow — 2020 harvests are finishing early.

In Manitoba, about 80 per cent of grains and oilseeds have been taken in. About 90 per cent of Saskatchewan’s crop has been combined, well ahead of the five-year average of 67 per cent for this time of year.

It’s the same in Alberta, where more than two-thirds of the harvest is complete, up from the five-year average of less than half.

And much of that crop is grading high, which will fetch better prices from buyers.

“The crop does appear to be fairly high-quality,” said Dane Froese of Manitoba Agriculture, who said most of his province’s harvest will be graded No 1 or 2.

“It’s very good quality,” said Lewis. He said his lentils and durum — a type of wheat used for pasta — are graded No. 2 and all his canola will be top grade.

Prices vary from place to place and change over time, so it’s hard to fix how much cash farmers will have after they truck their crops to the terminal, but things are looking good right now.

“I’m seeing a lot of positives,” said J.P. Gervais of the Farm Credit Corp. in Saskatchewan.

Canola prices are edging back up, with futures prices up about 10 per cent recently due to strong Chinese demand for oilseeds.

“Wheat has been a bit of a mixed performance, but now it’s moving up above the five-year average, said Gervais.

“Futures contracts in the U.S. are higher than they were a year ago, two years ago. I think it’s a very positive picture right now.”

Lewis is just happy to be doing something else this month other than harvesting.

“In the last 10 years, it’s been more than normal that we’re still combining after Oct. 21,” he said.

“This is pretty unusual.”

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