Farmer Focus Arable: Canadian-style grain marketing stifles, says Seth Pascoe

You’re in the farm office enjoying a cup of tea when the phone rings – it’s your friendly grain merchant.

She would like you to ship a quarter of your durum wheat to the terminal. Before the weekend, please, because that’s when the train leaves. No problem, you reply, but would it be OK to truck some extra grain, so machinery can be stored in the shed over the winter?

No – 25% is all you are “allowed” to move. You put the phone down, scratch your head and then realise that you didn’t even discuss the price.

Welcome to the illogical world of Canadian grain marketing. There are numerous arguments for and against the Canadian Wheat Board. Personally, I don’t think it should be abolished.

The task of moving grain from the world’s breadbasket to overseas customers is monumental, and they accomplish it well. However, farmers should have the right to market grain in a manner that suits their business, using their initiative to seek out premium markets that reward their efforts.

Last month we had a new John Deere 8345R demonstrator on the farm. It’s an impressive workhorse and made light work of pulling 40ft discs in less-than-ideal conditions.

Important specifications included the deluxe sound package, which includes numerous speakers, a subwoofer and a satellite radio. To my delight, the radio transmitted both BBC Radio 1 and 4. Summer tractor driving here isn’t quite the same without Test Match Special.

Autumn fieldwork is completed. This means I can drive off to the Potato Growers of Alberta annual conference next week guilt-free. The venue is in the Rocky Mountains, so I shall also be able to check up on next year’s irrigation water – spending a day on my snowboard at one of the ski-hills.

Seth Pascoe is assistant manager on North Paddock Farms, at Taber, Southern Alberta, Canada. Crops on the 1800 acres of irrigated sandy-loam include potatoes for McCain Foods, durum and soft wheat, GM canola for seed and timothy for hay.

Read more from Seth Pascoe.

See other stories from our Arable Farmer Focus writers.

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