Manitoba grain farmers are getting pretty good at rolling with the punches.
You'd think ongoing delays in getting last year's crop to market, coupled with weaker cereal grain prices, soaring fertilizer costs and another late start to the spring seeding season would have most producers feeling pretty down in the dumps these days.
But not so, industry officials say.
"I think people are optimistic," Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president Doug Chorney said Thursday.
"We're definitely not going to have an early (planting) season... but we're by no means at the point where we need to panic. Last year, we seeded everything late and still had a record crop."
'I think most people are planning to grow a big crop again. I don't think there will be any acreage taken out of production'
Chorney said he also doesn't expect farmers to cut back on their acreage this year just because grain prices aren't where they'd like them to be.
"I think most people are planning to grow a big crop again. I don't think there will be any acreage taken out of production."
The interim executive director of the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association is even more upbeat in his assessment of the mood of MPGA members.
"I would think that most of our growers are very optimistic about this year," François Labelle said.
He noted soybean and dry-bean prices held up well over the winter, and soybean growers don't need to add fertilizer to their soil, so rising fertilizer prices isn't an issue for them unless they're planting other crops where fertilizer is needed.
Labelle also noted soybeans usually aren't planted until mid to late May, so there's still plenty of time to get crops in the ground.
He figures all of those factors, coupled with the development of hardier varieties that enable farmers to grow soybeans in more regions of the province, explain why farmers are expected to plant a record number of acres of soybeans this year.
Statistics Canada released its annual report on spring-seeding intentions Thursday, and it shows Manitoba farmers expect to plant 1.3 million acres of soybeans this spring. That's a 23.8 per cent increase from the 1.1 million acres seeded in 2013 and would be the sixth consecutive year of record soybean acreage in Manitoba.
The survey also shows soybeans isn't the only crop enjoying a surge in popularity this year. Sunflower-seed acreage is expected to soar by a whopping 78.6 per cent to 125,000 acres, dry-bean acreage is expected to grow by 50 per cent to 120,000 acres and flaxseed acreage is expected to jump by 41.2 per cent to 120,000 acres.
It looks like there will be little or no change in the number of acres seeded in canola, which is the province's most popular crop, with about 3.2 million acres planned. But the number of acres of wheat -- the second most popular crop -- is expected to decline by 3.6 per cent to 2.8 million from 2013's 2.9 million.
Other crops where fewer acres are likely to be planted are barley, down an expected 3.3 per cent to 435,000 acres; oats, down an anticipated 6.7 per cent to 420,000 acres; and corn for grain, down an expected 21.1 per cent to 300,000 acres.
Curtis McRae, who along with his brother farms about 5,000 acres near St. Andrews, said their planting intentions are pretty much in line with the Statistics Canada survey results.
They'll also be devoting fewer acres to spring wheat and planting just a little less canola than last year. They also grew some winter wheat for the first time in about five years and, for the first time, they'll try their hand at growing sunflowers.
Although they still have snow in some of their fields and flood water rushing over the road between their two farms, McRae said they're not overly concerned. If the weather co-operates, they can get their seeding done in about two weeks. If they get started before mid-May, they should be OK.
This year's seeding forecast is based on the results of a survey of 1,291 Manitoba farmers and 11,500 Canadian farmers between March 24 and March 31. Statistics Canada noted farmers may modify their plans prior to planting time, as some said they were still undecided about their strategies for this year.
The survey results for all of Canada were similar to those for Manitoba. Canadian producers expect to plant a record amount of soybeans, more dry beans and oats, a little less canola and less wheat, barley and corn for grain.
Chorney said with prices down for wheat, feed corn and barley, it's not surprising farmers will be planting less of those crops and more soybeans and dry beans.
"What we're seeing is farmers chasing the best markets and the best prices," he added.