François Labelle, Executive Director
Spring is coming and planning for the year ahead is in full swing, on your farms as well as here at Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, your organization.
There continues to be a buzz of excitement in the ag sector. There are so many issues, programs, crop developments and policies, all of which are constantly changing. How can agriculture be anything but exciting? It keeps us on our toes.
A lot has happened in last few months. We’ve experienced trade issues with India, TPP, NAFTA negotiations, amalgamation discussions, staffing changes and much more.
I am excited to announce two additions to our staff: Daryl Domitruk, as director of research and production and Melissa Denys-Roulette, as finance manager.
Laryssa Stevenson is taking on a new role as production specialist in the western side of the province. Thanks, Laryssa, for leading the charge in the research program over the last year and for all the work you did on the cluster programs.
Five years ago a forward-looking director motioned MPSG contribute funds to Pulse Canada targeted towards improving our transportation system. Our funds along with financial commitments from other ag groups really got the Ag Transportation Coalition (ATC) off the ground and this has had a tremendously positive impact.
The coalition’s first real project was performance measurement. Some of you may be receiving this report, either daily or weekly, on how the railways are doing moving grain.
The parts we do not see is how this report has influenced government policy. This report has empowered the government to look into the Transportation Act and make a number of changes to it. The act is aimed at making the railways work in partnership with shippers and to become less monopolistic.
Unfortunately, we are still waiting for this bill to be passed through the senate. The wheels move slowly, but they are moving.
Looking to the future, the ATC needs to continue producing reports for at least three more years and possibly longer. The act has begun to form one strong monitoring system that is timely, accurate and available to everyone, but it will take time to get fully developed. Until this happens, ATC will still need funding. MPSG will continue funding ATC, but it’s time for all the other commodity groups to belly up and pay their share. This work benefits all crops and all crops should pay. Ask your other commodity groups if they are paying and if not, why.
TRADE – INDIA
This one jumped out and hit us hard in the pulse industry. With a 50 percent duty plus unreasonable demands for fumigation on peas, all trade going into India slowed way down. As a result, prices have dropped, forcing growers to re-evaluate their seeding plans for 2018.
It’s interesting, though, that there is discussion that trade is continuing into India, but at a lower price.
I think there are a few things at play behind India’s pulse tariff. The Indian government has wanted to become self-sufficient on pulse production for decades and after two good crops, they felt they could do it. These two profitable crop years were the result of timely rains and lots of high government subsidies. If we look back at the last 30 years, they have had more poor crops than good ones, so we will be surprised if self-sufficiency is within their grasp.
What happens if they have a poor crop and Canada does not plant many peas this year?
India, in the long run, has been a very important market for Canadian pulses and we expect it to continue to be. I have watched the Indian market for more than 30 years. It has been a roller coaster and I expect the ride to continue.
China is a huge market with a seemingly insatiable appetite for protein. How much more can its population grow? It’s tough to say, but it seems like its population will continue to rise for a while. They need to import protein, as meat and/or feed and/or vegetables. This is good for Canada all around. They consume our soybeans, and our pork producers send protein. Now, we just need them to eat pulse proteins.
MPSG board and staff have effected very positive changes to MASC’s crop insurance programs, lowering rates and increasing coverage. For more details, please read the MASC articles in this issue of Pulse Beat. The changes staff and board have lobbied for are real, tangible examples of your check-off investment returning value to your farm. It’s a positive step, but our work is not done. We get calls about issues, research them and discuss them with MASC. Crop insurance is a great risk-management tool and we want to work on continuing to improve it.
OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE
I was reading an article about our ability to influence change. How as individuals most of us have little ability to make something happen, but as groups we have much greater influence. In agriculture, we have a challenge. All producers are fiercely independent business people and many have a hard time putting that independence aside to work collectively in order to become more influential. Associations, such as MPSG, provide you with an opportunity to influence change. Your input will make it to the board table and it will get discussed.
Speaking of change and opportunity to influence it. There has been lots of discussion on the amalgamation of producer commodity groups over the last year. It’s not a done deal. It’s still a work in progress. You still have lots of opportunity to comment on it and you as members in good standing will have the final say. For this to go ahead, there will be a vote of all members present at an AGM or special meeting.
I strongly encourage everyone to get involved and be heard. It’s important to listen to the facts and not just the rumour mill or the vocal few. Make a decision and let your voice be heard.
As we consider what remains of 2018, let’s look forward and not dwell on the past. It’s important to learn from the things we did yesterday, but it’s what we do next that really matters.