The weather has been dominating the concerns of farmers across Ontario. While conditions vary widely from region to region, there is no doubt that a great many farmers are very concerned about the conditions of their crops. The impact of heavy drought conditions impacts all of agriculture.
The most obvious group that is being impacted are grain and oil seeds farmers. At this critical time for corn production, rain is needed to ensure that full cobs of corn form for the fall harvest. Soybeans are dead or dying from thirst in some areas. While not ideal for those producers able to produce a crop, the impact of reduced yields may be offset by strong prices. For those who lose their crop, farmers had the option to enroll in crop insurance to protect themselves against years like this.
Tough weather conditions have an impact for other farmers as well. Specialized livestock producers without a land base are staring at the prospect of sharply elevated feed costs. The situation for these producers is compounded by widespread drought in the United States. This has meant that North American based current and futures prices are moving slowly upwards. If the drought were a localized phenomenon, this pressure would be greatly reduced.
The impacts extend even further. Fruit and vegetable growers are affected by this as well. For example, perennial crops like asparagus will not know the full impact of the stress caused by the heat and the drought until next year. For dairy, beef, sheep and other livestock producers, second cuts of hay are sparse in some regions. The going rate for a bale of hay has risen to incredible heights.
Time will tell if this grows from a deep concern in isolated regions of the province into a widespread disaster. Healthy doses of rain across the province and south of the border over the next few weeks could dramatically improve the situation for farmers and consumers. With some good fortune, rain will be falling when you read or hear this commentary and crop production will be tilting back towards decent yields for the province as a whole.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Woodstock and Brantford. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario. www.christianfarmers.org