My recent visit with our neighbors to the North was rather exciting. I arrived in Winnipeg, Canada just at the start of the third largest blizzard in the history of the city. The intense storm and howling winds were a remarkable backdrop to the conference. Numerous attendees were snowed in and other speakers were grounded outside of the city. Well, I shifted into high gear filling others’ sessions, individual consultations and networking at socials with producers and agribusinesses. Between the storm, the positive conversations, and the sometimes impromptu sessions, it really was an exciting time.
Each Canadian citizen with which I spoke mentioned the recent U.S. elections. They are following the new administration with interest, and by far the major concern was ramifications for NAFTA and international agricultural trade, in general. For the 300,000 farms and ranches in Canada international trade is critical. Depending on the industry sector, between 60 and 80 percent of their agricultural products are exported.
Canadian producers are doing well economically compared to the farmers in the States. The Canadians continue to benefit from the strong dollar and the weak loonie (Canadian currency). Many producers in Canada are still in expansion mode utilizing the latest technologies, particularly in the larger operations in southern Manitoba.
The Canadian dairy industry is also strong as a result of supply management in the form of quotas. New processing procedures and an increase in the dairy consumption outlook has the dairy industry in Canada bullish for the future.
Recently, a major paradigm shift occurred in the Prairie Provinces. Soybeans were generally nonexistent even a few decades ago, and now are one of the top revenues in the region. Recent yields in Canada have been lower than those in the U.S. on average, but for Manitoba, the yields and profits are breaking records.
New technologies such as, robotics in the dairy industry, and big data in the grain industry were highlights of the conference. As it is in the U.S., the millennial transition in the audience was noticeable; not only in farm management, but in agribusiness models and decision-making as well.
Canadian producers were genuinely concerned about the new leadership of Mr. Trudeau. Specifically, his emphasis on the carbon tax and greater environmental restrictions is worrisome. At least on the environmental front, it appears that Canada and U.S. may be going in the opposite direction.
On my ride back to the airport, the actual outside temperature was -27 degrees with a wind chill factor of -54 degrees. The familiar Delta gate agent, Jeff, was waiting for me when I arrived at the gate. He and I shared the 9/11 tragedy and it is always refreshing to see him. His ability to get me to warmer weather was also refreshing! Without a doubt, it was another great trip and tribute to Canada!
P.S. Land values in Manitoba have increased from $1,000 to $1,500 per acre six years ago to $7,000 to $8,000 per acre currently. It appears that is two to three years behind the U.S. land cycle.