Archive for March, 2009

Monsanto’s Application For Drought Tolerant Gene Provides Pull Type Trait Development

March 31, 2009

There has been a lot of confusion amongst some people regarding Monsanto‘s application for GM drought tolerant corn for feed and food use in Canada and the United States. The application has been made and could be ready if approved fro commercialization in 2012 or 2013. This gene will provide farmers with the ability to stabilize yield during adverse rainfall conditions. In my mind this is the kind of 2nd generation trait development that is going to provide excellent production benefits to farmers and have added benefits to the general public.

According to Trish Jordan, Public Relation Lead at Monsanto Canada in Winnipeg, agriculture accounts for 70% of the worlds annual water usage. Traits that allow plants like corn to use less of it will have a positive impact on the environment.

Lately on Twitter, there has been a lot of public criticism of Monsanto “pushing” this technology on the public. A couple weeks ago I spoke to some University of Lethbridge Agriculture students about the second generation of trait development which will provide not only production benefits but also greater benefits for the general public. I call this pull type trait development instead of push type trait development. Ask any city dwelling friend who knows nothing about agriculture whether or not they think we should develop plants that use less water but remain just as productive. I would imagine that they would think that it was a great idea. Pull type GMOs will become more acceptable for the general public because they provide benefits to all of society. Push type GMOs really only provide direct benefits for farmers because they were strictly production based and do not affect city people. Monsanto is not “pushing” the drought tolerant gene on anyone. This is a gene that farmers and people concerned about the environment will benefit from. Sounds like a positive innovation to me.

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Part 2 of 2 Lloyd Dyck CEO of Brett Young – Commodity Price Outlook, The Forage Industry Outlook and the EU and GMO Canola

March 27, 2009

In part 2 of my interview with Lloyd Dyck, CEO of Brett Young we discuss how the access to credit is a bigger concern than the commodity price volatility for people in agriculture. Lloyd also talks about the forage business at Brett Young, where forage genetics are coming from and how hybrid alfalfa is growing in market share. Lastly Lloyd talks about how the EU finally excepting GMO canola imports will ultimately affect Canadian agriculture.

I would like to thank Lloyd Dyck for taking the time to talk to me and RealAgriculture.com
If you are interested in Brett Young products please go to their website at http://www.brettyoung.ca/

Part 1 of 2 Lloyd Dyck CEO Brett Young -The Future Success at Brett Young is in Biologicals and Leveraging Strong Strategic Relationships

March 25, 2009

This is part 1 of 2 of my interview with Lloyd Dyck, CEO of Brett Young. Brett Young is truly unique because it is family owned and provides a a very diversified product line to the marketplace. In this video Lloyd discusses how the future growth of the company is in biologicals like PodCeal and Bio Boost and how it leverages strategic relationships to build the business. Lloyd is a well respected strong businessman who has a tall task to compete against very large competitors like Monsanto, Bayer and Viterra. As Lloyd mentions in the video, Brett Young has found success by leveraging their strong relationships with like minded companies like Miller Chemical and DL Seeds.

US Trade Policy is a Concern for Canadian Agriculture – Shaun’s Brownfield Interview

March 23, 2009

A couple weeks ago I did an interview with Dave Russell (@russfarm) of the Brownfield Network (twitter feed) on the concerns that the Canadian Agricultural Industry has regarding the potential protectionist agenda of the United States through this economic crisis.  The Brownfield Network is a great agricultural news resource with diversified news feeds as well as a very interesting blog.  Brownfield produces agricultural content for over 300 radio stations in the United States  
To hear the interview Click here

Dave Russell and I met on Twitter and continue to communicate through this great tool.  If you are interested in seeing my Twitter feed check out @shaunhaney.  

There Will Not Be 17 Million Canola Acres In Western Canada in 2009

March 21, 2009

There is much speculation around canola acres for 2009 in Western Canada. Farmers are hesitant to order canola seed, retailers are hesitant to speculate on inventory, distributors are cautious, and seed companies will not treat on speculation just to make sure seed is available for spring. What we have here is a system that is so built on just in time inventory management that with every day that passes the opportunity for the industry to supply 16 to 17 million acres of seed becomes impossible.

What makes this year different than others is that the industry has the bare seed available to supply these records acres. The challenge is that orders are very slow as farmers have shown hesitation across the prairies in ordering canola seed. This wait and see strategy is applicable in cereals but in canola it could cause forced seed shortages to the marketplace. Canterra Seeds, Brett Young, Monsanto (Dekalb) and Pioneer do not treat their entire inventory and wait for the farmer to make up his mind. All bare canola seed is not treated until the order has been placed by the distributor who has an order from the retailer who has an order from the farmer.  The reason that no one in the chain is willing to spec on inventory to ensure that there is in season supply is because the inventory carry over penalties are very punitive. Probably the only company that treats all of its inventory every year regardless of orders is Bayer (Invigor) because they are always sold out with the exception of this year.  The only companies rumored to be up in sales versus last year at this point are Dow (Nexera) and Cargill (Victory).  

My suggestion is that if you are planning to plant canola this spring book your seed now to ensure that you have supply.  If there is going to be demand for 16 to 17 million acres it will be a good idea to have your canola seed variety ordered.  Based on the just in time system that we have created to manage inventory costs, everyday that passes without canola orders will raise the probability that canola acres will not reach 16 or 17 million acres this year because there will not be enough seed on the retailers warehouse floor.  The big variable is whether or not one of the companies places a  big bet and treats a bunch of spec seed to ensure they will be able to supply the short market in the spring.  It should be interesting.    

Part 4 of 4 Jay Bradshaw President of Syngenta Canada – How Public Perception is Threatening Agriculture with Bill 64

March 20, 2009

In this final segment of the four part series, Jay Bradshaw discusses how the public perception of agriculture is one of Syngenta’s and farmers greatest threats. Whether you are Syngenta, Crop Life or a farmer it can be difficult to manage against the eyes of public perception. This is especially true in Ontario with Bill 64 (urban pesticide use) as people will not be able to use pesticides for home and garden use as of April 2009. The reality is that what is next? Many of these same products are used on farms and this truly feels like the “thin edge of the wedge,” as Jay describes it.
 

Part 3 of 4 Jay Bradshaw, President of Syngenta Canada – The Canadian Variety Registration System and Transgenic Wheat

March 18, 2009

This is part 3 of 4 of my interview with Syngenta Canada President, Jay Bradshaw.  In this segment Jay talks about how the variety registration system in Canada needs to be improved and how transgenic wheat will bring benefits to farmers and consumers.  Transgenic wheat is an issue that will have to eventually be dealt with.  Transgenic wheat is not all about Round up Ready or the terminator gene.  It is about being able to access technology like the fusarium resistant trait or end use traits that allow for tastier bread.

What Should Be the Vision For Cereal Research — Stan Blade

March 16, 2009

Last week while I was in Edmonton I listened to Stan Blade, Executive Director of the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute (AARI), talk about where Alberta is focusing cereal research in the long term. Currently in Alberta the three biggest products in terms of value are beef (3.104 billion), canola (1.216 billion) and wheat ( 1.251 billion).

Blade asked the group at the meeting a pressing question, “What should be the vision for cereals?” He continued by summarizing the issue of cereal development in three questions.

  1. Have we made a big enough investment?
  2. Are we investing in the right place?
  3. Where should we be investing in the future?

Cereal acres in Western Canada have been dropping over the past 15 years due to the return potential of other cash crops. Currently, the livestock industry is really struggling which has forced them to invest some check off money into crop genetics. Blade told the group that cheaper feed is the livestock industry’s goal along with end use development such as feed grains that produce better feed conversions or higher energy per acre. Blade emphasized that he feels there is a lot of opportunities in triticale but much work is still needed.

Stan Blade is an incredible resource for Alberta’s future as he works with the industry to put Alberta on the cutting edge in terms of crop technology.

Bill Lapp — Advanced Economic Solutions — Discusses the Commmodity Market Outlook

March 9, 2009

I just listened to Bill Lapp, an economist with Advanced Economic Solutions speak about the outlook for commodities in Edmonton. Lapp was very interesting, candid and provided great insight into the commodity market.

The key points that Lapp focused on were:

  • Brazil, Russia, India and China have led the world growth over the last 10 years.
  • The rising US deficit is going to be an ongoing concern. As the US dollar weakens commodities should strengthen.
  • Commodities tend to jump and then plateau. He showed a chart of corn prices back to the 1800’s and showed the group that this has been in case with corn over history.
  • World coarse grain usage is now rising much faster than long term gains. The result is going to be acre battles between major crops. For example, corn and soybeans.
  • The ethanol industry in the US has moved from the gold rush to significant financial issues. Currently, 20% of the ethanol production capacity is idle in the US.
  • The US cattle and chicken industries are under significant financial pressure.
  • Food use of soy oil is going to decline in the US for the fourth consecutive year due to the growth of canola and palm oil. In the US consumers view, canola is a healthier oil.
  • The North American recession has created real financial trauma. The longer the economy is slow, the more likely the US moves to a protectionist agenda of which Lapp is extremely concerned about.

    If you are ever presented with the opportunity to hear Bill Lapp speak I encourage you to attend.

Gerry Ritz Visits Lethbridge for a Producer Roundtable

March 7, 2009
Yesterday, Rick Cassson, MP Lethbridge hosted Federal Agricultural Minister, Gerry Ritz in Lethbridge.  On top of serving at the Farm Credit Canada Breakfast at Ag Expo and meeting with a farmer round table, Ritz also announced 15.5 million in funding for the Canadian Triticale Biorefiniery Initiative. 
I participated in the farmer round table where all twenty of the producer participants had a couple minutes to voice their opinion on any given subject.  This is the first time I have met the Honorable Mr. Ritz but I have to say that he appears to be a very fast on his feet, intelligent and has a very firm grasp of the subjects at hand.  Based on his opinion of the Canadian Wheat Board alone I think that we are in good hands.  I cannot say that I agree with him on all subjects but you should never expect that. 
The issues brought up at the round table were country of origin labeling, the creation of the certified seed tax incentive, farmers wanting a choice on how and where to market their grain, the inability of the Canadian Wheat Board to manage its finances, the inadequate rail system in Canada, consolidation of the beef industry, how to create a long term sustainable sugar beet industry, the need for public plant breeding, the need for own use allowances on certain animal drugs and crop protection products, pollination research needs, wildlife control as it pertains to sheep production, transgenic wheat and many questions about the need for government stability programs to be bankable going forward.  
Afterwards I reflected to a good friend that it was great to meet Gerry Ritz and get some of his candid feelings on the issues as he really encouraged to be challenged and given ideas on how things can be improved.  Thank you Mr. Ritz for taking the time to come to Lethbridge and listen to our Southern Alberta concerns.