Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Soybeans, corn golden

Farmers to cash in on record-high acreages, higher yields, fat prices

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A growing infatuation with soybeans and feed corn is paying record dividends for Manitoba farmers.

The latest field-crop report from Statistics Canada says local farmers are expecting to smash previous records for the most soybeans and feed corn harvested in the province in a single year -- 661,300 tonnes for soybeans and 692,200 tonnes for corn.

Those totals would obliterate the previous soybean record of 435,400 tonnes set in 2010 and the previous feed-corn record of 495,300 tonnes set in 2003.

With corn and soybean prices near record highs, that should mean a big payday for local farmers. It appears they're getting higher yields than last year despite the unusually hot, dry summer.

As well, Statistics Canada says local farmers surveyed early last month were expecting huge increases ranging from 48.2 per cent to a staggering 289.9 per cent in spring wheat, oats, barley and sunflower seed harvested this fall, due to higher yields and more acres seeded.

The ones who gambled and lost were canola growers. They planted a record 3.5 million acres, but high winds, intense heat, sporadic rain, disease and bugs wreaked havoc on their yields. As late as August, they were still expecting a 50 per cent increase in production over last year. But by early last month they had downgraded that to 25 per cent, and 2011 was one of the worst crop years in recent memory.

"In a word, it's disappointing," Manitoba Canola Growers Association president Ed Remple said in an interview Thursday. "Most crops really took it on the chin. The heat (in July and August) was the final nail in the coffin."

Statistics Canada estimates canola yields this year are down 6.8 per cent to about 25 bushels per acre from 28 in 2011. Remple said farmers typically get 35 to 45 bushels an acre of canola, and they need that much to make up for what they spend on fertilizer.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney predicted that after two consecutive summers of hot, dry weather, a lot of Manitoba oilseed growers will switch from canola to soybeans next year because soybeans are better suited to those conditions.

"Canola has been good to Manitoba farmers for a lot of years, and I think it's too soon to write it off. But I think there's going to be a major shift (to soybeans) next year."

Chorney and Remple said local farmers are beginning to worry that the dearth of rain in recent months will devastate their newly planted winter wheat crop, which needs moisture to germinate. It's hoped the rain and snow that fell Thursday will solve that problem, they added.

Statistics Canada said Manitoba canola growers weren't the only ones dealt a bad hand this year by Mother Nature. Prairie production of canola is expected to drop 8.1 per cent to 13.2 million tonnes due to poor yields through much of the region.

However, Prairie wheat production is expected to climb by 5.8 per cent to 26.7 million tonnes, while soybean production in Canada is expected to remain virtually unchanged at 4.3 million tonnes, and corn production is expected to jump by 8.3 per cent to 11.6 million tonnes.

Statistics Canada's latest field-crops report is based on the result of a survey of 1,196 Manitoba farmers taken between Sept. 4 and 11. The final crop production numbers for 2012 will be released on Dec. 5.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 B6

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