Weather issues collide with farmer optimism: CWB

The strong grain prices that have buoyed Prairie grain producers’ optimism have run up against “serious concerns” about the fate of this year’s crop given current weather conditions, according to the Canadian Wheat Board’s latest producer survey.

The CWB’s survey, results from which were released Thursday, found 60 per cent of farmers “continue to believe that agriculture is headed in the right direction,” the board said.

“The upbeat results are similar to last year’s survey, conducted when grain prices had reached all-time highs. While prices have since fallen off, wheat returns for 2008-09 will be the second-highest in history.”

But one in four farmers cited this season’s growing conditions as their “biggest challenge” when the survey was fielded in late April, the CWB said. “Conditions have since grown more severe, with western Canadian production predicted to drop by 20 per cent this year.”

In the short term, CWB chairman Larry Hill, a Swift Current, Sask. farmer said in Thursday’s release, most Prairie farmers “face major weather worries: too dry in the west, too wet in the east and a cold spring everywhere.”

Costs of inputs continue to be the top farmer concern by far, with 52 per cent listing this as their biggest problem this year, above grain prices (the top concern for 36 per cent) and weather concerns, the CWB said.

Yet worry over input costs is down markedly from last year, when 66 per cent considered them a major challenge and the year before, when 72 per cent listed these costs as a major problem, the board noted.

Other issues, including those surrounding the CWB’s own role in Prairie grain marketing, are “far less pressing to most farmers,” with grain marketing cited as a top challenge by 12 per cent of respondents, while farm labour and CWB issues were named as the biggest problem by two per cent of producers, the board said.

“As farmers, we are most concerned with the issues that affect our day-to-day business and our bottom lines,” Hill said. “This is where the focus must lie for policymakers — whether those of us around the CWB board table or government legislators at all levels.”

Results from the survey of 1,300 producers in the three Prairie provinces are posted on the board’s website.

By the numbers

  • Farmers saying agriculture is “headed in the right direction”: 60 per cent. In Saskatchewan: 64 per cent.
  • Farmers expecting conditions to be worse than last year: 65 per cent.
  • Farmers seeing input costs as a “major challenge”: 52 per cent. Last year: 66 per cent. In 2007: 72 per cent.
  • Farmers seeing the views of the CWB as “very close” or “somewhat close” to their own: 70 per cent. Last year: 64 per cent.
  • Farmers opposed to introduction of genetically modified wheat varieties “at this time”: 69 per cent. Farmers wanting to grow GM wheat “as soon as possible”: nine per cent. Farmers not interested at all in growing a GM wheat: 51 per cent.

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